Tri-State Connecticut River Targeted Watershed Initiative

A major regional initiative to understand and improve water quality in the Connecticut River watershed in New Hampshire, Vermont, and Massachusetts

Tri-state Initiative Web Site

Project descriptions

Results of water quality monitoring

(at left: a Hartland Conservation Commission member samples water quality at the Wilder Picnic Area)

The Connecticut River Joint Commissions, working with partner organizations in Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire, have embarked on a multi-year $1.4 million project to improve the Connecticut River by addressing bacterial pollution problems, stormwater, combined sewer overflows, riverbank erosion, agricultural runoff, and pollution from growth and development.

The project is funded under a $953,000 Targeted Watershed Initiative grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, matched by $458,000 in local funding commitments. The project is led by the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, and includes, in addition to CRJC, Franklin Regional Council of Governments, University of Massachusetts Water Resources Research Center, US Geological Survey, Upper Valley Lake Sunapee Regional Planning Commission, Southern Windsor County Regional Planning Commission, and 16 other cooperating partners.

The Connecticut River still has significant water quality problems, particularly combined sewer overflows (CSOs), which prevent the river from achieving federal Class B fishable/swimmable water quality standards. Clean-up costs are very high, estimated at $325 million for CSOs in Springfield, Chicopee, and Holyoke alone, but the benefits of cleaner water will also be enormous. Other water quality impairments include erosion, sedimentation, mercury and PCBs which render fish consumption unsafe, agricultural runoff, urban stormwater, malfunctioning septic systems, and runoff from forestry operations.

Project Descriptions - The project includes ten distinct tasks and activities:

1. Rapid Response Water Quality Monitoring and Public Awareness - A new monitoring project allows recreational users of the Connecticut River to find up-to-date water quality information on the Internet before going out for a paddle or a swim. This project will monitor river bacteria levels and provide up-to-date information on water quality conditions, via a website to recreational users of the Connecticut River. Until now, the limited water quality information available for the Connecticut River has indicated only that in many urbanized areas, the river's bacterial contamination is so high during wet weather events—due to combined sewer overflow discharges and to urban stormwater flows—that it does not meet standards for recreational uses. (2004 Water Quality Assessment, Upper CT River)

The two-year monitoring project examines water temperature and bacteria at 26 sites along the river. Data will provide a more complete picture of the river's health and understanding about sources of contamination. This will be useful not only to recreational users who have direct contact with the waters, but also to local, state, and federal officials in addressing combined sewer overflow discharges and stormwater flows.

In the New Hampshire/Vermont reach of the river, volunteers from Hartland, VT and Lebanon, NH are monitoring water quality at Sumner Falls and the following sites:  


New Hampshire

Wilder Picnic Area, Wilder

East Wilder Boat Launch, Lebanon

Lyman Point Park, Hartford

Lebanon Boat Launch, Lebanon

Sumner Falls, Hartland

Bloods Brook Canoe Launch, Lebanon

Wilgus State Park, Weathersfield

Hanchett Brook, Plainfield

Riverview Farm, Plainfield

Cornish Boat Launch, Cornish

Results of water quality monitoring

North Star Canoe Rentals, Cornish

2. Bacteria Source Tracking and Wastewater Tracers- USGS is applying newly developed methods of bacteria source identification to assess the potential presence of human sewage sources to the urbanized Massachusetts reach of the Connecticut River.

3. Connecticut Riverbank Erosion Control - A major riparian buffer planting in Colebrook, New Hampshire will complete a separately funded project to restore 600 feet of eroding riverbank. Approximately 1,000 more feet of eroding riverbank will be stabilized using innovative bioengineering techniques in Franklin County, Massachusetts.

4. Intergovernmental Compact for Financing Stormwater Public Outreach - Communities are collaborating through the Connecticut River Stormwater Committee, to jointly finance a multimedia campaign of public outreach focusing on reducing stormwater pollutant loading.

5. Stormwater Rebates: Incentives for On-site Stormwater Recharge - Cost-sharing Stormwater Rebate programs are encouraging residents and businesses of Springfield, Vermont to disconnect residential roof leaders and sump pumps from the CSO/storm sewer system and re-route water to rain gardens, rain barrels, and other on-site recharge areas. A demonstration green roof project will be designed. LID Stormwater zoning and subdivision regulations are also being developed. (More)

6. Stormwater Utility Demonstration Project for CSO and Stormwater Control - A demonstration Stormwater Utility will be designed to provide an innovative new revenue stream to help cash-strapped communities pay for CSO and stormwater projects.

7. Smart Growth Tools for Public Water Supply Protection - Initiative partners are preparing to work with six communities, including Enfield and Lebanon, NH, to develop appropriate smart growth tools for water supply protection. (More)

8. Low Impact Development Tools for Agricultural Runoff - Demonstration projects are being undertaken at the UMass farm in Hadley to fence livestock out of rivers and install native plantings to restore riparian corridors.

9. Information Technology-based Public Outreach Campaign - A project web site hosts a virtual tour of the watershed, including discussion of issues facing the river and specific projects implemented under this watershed initiative. Guided tours of project sites will be developed for playback on handheld computing devices. An electronic field guide to observational water quality indicators is being created.

10. Peer and Technology Transfer Activities - To help disseminate findings and products of the Tri-State Targeted Watershed Initiative, each partner organization is using its network of citizen volunteers and commissioners in 241 watershed communities. In addition, this project will provide two, tri-state public forums to report on the findings of the projects, a final report of the results of each of the eight projects, special website sections at each partner's website; and media releases to television, radio, press and the organizational newsletters of each project partner.