CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
On Monday, July 23, 2012, the House is scheduled to consider H.R. 3388, the Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Protection Act, under a suspension of the rules requiring a two-thirds majority vote for approval. The bill was introduced on November 4, 2011, by Rep. James Langevin (D-RI) and referred to the Committee on Natural Resources. The bill was reported by the Natural Resources Committee, as amended, on June 7, 2012.
H.R. 3582 would designate a segment of the Beaver, Chipuxet, Queen, Wood, and Pawcatuck Rivers in the States of Connecticut and Rhode Island for study for potential addition to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. The bill would require the National Park Service (NPS) to conduct a study of 86 miles of the Beaver, Chipuxet, Queen, Wood, and Pawcatuck Rivers in the States of Connecticut and Rhode Island for potential addition to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. The study would have to include all authorities that will authorize or require the Secretary to influence local land use decisions. The study would have to be complete within three years after funds were made available. According to CBO, implementing the legislation would cost about $400,000 over the next three years, assuming availability of appropriated funds.
The Wild and Scenic Rivers System was created in 1968 with the intent of protecting the natural characteristics of the nation’s “outstanding,” free flowing rivers and their immediate surrounding environments from development. The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act provides three separate designations for rivers: wild, scenic, or recreational. According to the National Wild and Scenic River System, a river, or section of river, is designated wild if it is free of impoundments, has primitive shorelines, is only accessible by trails, and has unpolluted waters. Scenic rivers are meant to have largely undeveloped shorelines, may be accessible by roads in places, and are more developed than wild rivers. Rivers are designated as recreational if they are readily accessible by road, have some development along the shoreline, and may have had some impoundment or diversion (like a dam) in the past. If a river receives a Wild and Scenic River designation, no new dams may be constructed and federally assisted water resource development projects would not be allowed. Specifically, the designation prohibits federal construction of dams or other facilities that endanger the free flow and/or resource value of the river. In the past, some segments of rivers that Congress has included in the Wild and Scenic River System have been scrutinized because they seemingly lacked the essential natural qualities needed to be designated as a scenic river.
According to the Natural Resources Committee, during Full Committee consideration of the bill, the committee adopted an amendment offered by Congressman Rob Bishop (R-UT) to add several requirements to the study that will be undertaken by the National Park Service (NPS). NPS will be required to consider the effect of designation on commercial and recreational uses, such as hunting, fishing and boating. Also, the study must look at the impact on construction and maintenance of energy production and transmission. Finally, the amendment would require that the study identify private property within the study area and all authorities that could be utilized to condemn land.
According to CBO, “implementing the legislation would cost about $400,000 over the next three years, assuming the availability of appropriated funds.”