DEP Proposes Final Stream Flow Regulations

Aug 28th, 2010 | By | Category: Legislation, River

Revisions to original draft provide more flexible, workable, cost effective system

The Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has released final proposed stream flow regulations that respond to public comment on an initial draft by presenting a more flexible, cost effective and workable system for protecting the state’s rivers and streams.

The Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has released final proposed stream flow regulations that respond to public comment on an initial draft by presenting a more flexible, cost effective and workable system for protecting the state’s rivers and streams.

“These proposed regulations strike the proper balance between the human and ecological needs for Connecticut’s water resources,” said DEP Commissioner Amey Marrella. “While the scientific foundation of the draft regulations remains intact, we have made substantial adjustments in this final version. In response to the comments we received, changes have been made to reduce the complexity and cost for compliance, to allow more time for compliance and to focus on the most pressing water resource issues we face.”

Marrella said, “Adoption of these stream flow regulations will help ensure that water is available for Connecticut to grow in an environmentally sustainable manner. These regulations will ensure the wise and effective use of the water in our rivers and streams, which is critical to our future economic development, the health and welfare of our citizens, and protection of our natural resources.”

The final proposed stream flow regulations, which can be viewed at www.ct.gov/dep/streamflow, must be approved by the General Assembly’s Regulations Review Committee before they can take effect.

Background on the Regulations

DEP proposed the stream flow regulations in response to requirements in legislation approved by the General Assembly and signed into law by the Governor in 2005 (PA 05-142).

This law directed the agency to develop regulations that would expand the coverage of existing minimum stream flow standards to include all rivers and streams – rather than only those stocked with fish as was previously the case. The statute also directed DEP to develop standards that allowed the state to meet human needs for water while preserving and protecting aquatic life, fish and wildlife that are dependent on the flow of rivers and streams.

DEP issued draft proposed stream flow regulations on October 13, 2009. The agency held two public information sessions on this draft, held a formal public hearing January 2110 and accepted public comment until February 4.

Changes from the Initial Draft

Based on public comment on the initial draft regulations, five themes were established to guide the development of the final proposed regulations. The themes were: (1) increasing the predictability of the classification of stream and river systems and segments; (2) reducing the overall complexity of the regulations; (3) reducing the cost of complying with the regulations; (4) increasing the time for compliance; and (5) focusing on impaired stream and river systems.

An overview of the most significant changes from the initial draft regulations in October 2009 shows that the final proposed regulations:

  • Double the timeframe for compliance – from five to 10 years – for rules governing releases from dams.
  • Simplify rules governing releases from dams.
  • Streamline requirements governing groundwater to focus on diversions that are determined to contribute to the low flow of rivers and streams.

A more detailed look at the changes made in the final proposed regulations is available on the DEP website.

How the Final Proposed Regulations Work

The regulations establish four categories, or classes, of rivers and establish management standards for each category. The process for classifying streams includes public input and consultation with the Department of Public Health. The key considerations for determining the class appropriate to specific waters are detailed in the regulations.

The categories of rivers and streams are:

  • Class 1 waters are considered “natural,” characterized as a resource having little current development in the watershed and having not been affected by the removal of water for human uses.
  • Class 2 waters are considered “near natural,” sharing many characteristics with Class 1 systems. The flow standards for this class, however, allow for some levels of human alteration.
  • Class 3 waters are defined as “working rivers,” where human uses may have a significant influence on steam flow patterns. These rivers and streams are expected to have adequate water resources available to support viable aquatic communities. Some changes in use may be necessary to restore flow patterns needed to ensure these conditions.
  • Class 4 waters are characterized as systems where past practices have resulted in a significant deviation from the natural stream flow pattern and restoring these rivers and streams to a natural condition would be impractical. In order to prevent additional water quantity degradation, the regulations now require the use of “best management practices” in the taking of water along Class 4 rivers.

In Class 1 waters, priority would be given to protecting the ecological health of a river or stream. In Class 4 waters, support of human activities would be weighted most heavily. In Class 2 and Class 3 waters, activities would strike a balance between ecological and human needs.

The regulations include exemptions for minor water uses and simplified rules for certain categories of dams. Provisions for proposing alternate flow standards that meet the classification goals can be made through development of a Flow Management Compact. Finally, provisions are made for limited-term variances to address unusual climatic or temporary operational circumstances and for drought relief are included.

via DEP: DEP Proposes Final Regulations to  Better Protect State’s Rivers and Streams.

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