Dozens of speakers at a hearing Tuesday night denounced a plan to take water from the Farmington River Watershed to supply the University of Connecticut, saying it would harm an already stressed Farmington River, an important resource.
The hearing at the University of Connecticut Health Center was about UConn's plans to increase the water supply to the Storrs campus and the town of Mansfield by nearly 2 million gallons per day.
Three options are under consideration. But the one that has attracted the most attention entails having the university buy water from the Metropolitan District Commission, which would build a 20-mile long pipeline from East Hartford to UConn.
The water the MDC would provide would come from its Barkhamsted and Nepaug reservoirs, which are in the Farmington River Watershed. Speakers on Tuesday urged UConn to abandon that plan, or at least study it further. They said they are worried that water would be taken away from the Farmington River, which is already running lower than before and less able to support wildlife.
"Profit should not come before the fragile environment of this state. This proposal should not go forward," said David Blume of Simsbury. He said he plans to organize an effort to fight the plan if UConn does not drop it and circulated a signup sheet for people interested in joining him.
Elected leaders from the Farmington Valley also spoke against the plan.
"The Farmington River is already under stress," said Simsbury First Selectman Mary Glassman. "The MDC proposal would only make it worse. We want you to look at the other proposal and we want a plan that is supported by proper analysis."
The MDC proposal has drawn attention from beyond the Farmington Valley. On Tuesday, representatives from the Naugatuck River Revival Group and the Connecticut Fund for the Environment opposed the plan.
Some of the water that the MDC would provide would go to the Town of Mansfield. Mansfield Town Manager Matthew Hart said the town needs water for continued commercial development. He said UConn and Mansfield are looking at other options besides the deal with the MDC.
UConn and MDC officials say their plan is the most cost-effective way of bringing more water to the university. They also insist that the plan, if approved, would not be detrimental to the Farmington River.
Supporters of the plan say the MDC has 12 million gallons per day of surplus capacity in the Farmington Valley and would deliver only about 2 million gallons per day to UConn. But several speakers said what worries them is the potential for future development in communities where the pipeline passes through that would increase demand.
Farmington Valley town officials and others said Tuesday that transferring water from one watershed to another on such a scale is unprecedented and should not be done without a statewide water plan in place.
UConn's water plan has drawn concern from town leaders in Canton, who sent two letters to university officials in the past month asking that it proceed with caution. The Farmington River runs through the Collinsville section of Canton and is seen as a resource to help revitalize that neighborhood.
Other organizations, like Farmington Valley Trout Unlimited, have also objected to the plan.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun