ICYMI: Bill to Protect Rhode Island and Connecticut Rivers Passes House of Representatives
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Congressmen Jim Langevin (D-RI), Joe Courtney (D-CT), and David Cicilline (D-RI) announced their legislation to protect several local waterways passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 363-62 as part of a broader bipartisan public lands package. The Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Wild and Scenic River Act designates portions of the Wood-Pawcatuck watershed as part of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System, providing new access to federal funding for conservation and stewardship efforts.
“After years of tireless efforts at the local, state, and federal levels, we are now finally on the verge of making the first-ever Wild and Scenic designation in Rhode Island,” said Congressman Langevin. “The Wood-Pawcatuck watershed is home to pristine waterways that provide access to fishing and recreation activities for tourists and locals alike. A Wild and Scenic designation will ensure this critical natural resource is preserved for future generations, and I am thrilled it was included in today’s bipartisan public lands package.”
In 2010, Congressmen Langevin and Courtney introduced the Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Protection Act in the House of Representatives to initiate a study to determine whether portions of the watershed were appropriate for inclusion in the Wild and Scenic River System. That legislation was signed into law in 2014 after Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) included it in the Fiscal Year 2014 National Defense Authorization Act. Following enactment, the Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Association (WPWA) conducted a study and formed a committee comprised of municipalities, state government agencies, and several non-profit stakeholders to author a stewardship plan. In 2018, all twelve towns within the Wood-Pawcatuck watershed formally adopted the stewardship plan and supported a designation through the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.
“Today’s passage of the Natural Resources Management Act includes permanent designation of the Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed as part of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers system,” said Congressman Courtney. “This victory is the result of years of community work that the two state Congressional delegations of Rhode Island and Connecticut converted into protections for the watershed that will live on for generations. I particularly want to thank my colleague Congressman Jim Langevin from Rhode Island for his leadership on this issue, as well as Congressman David Cicilline. This is a great example of two neighboring states teaming up to protect one of our national treasures.”
“Rhode Island’s rivers are a national treasure. We need to do everything we can to protect them,” said Congressman Cicilline. “I’m proud that the Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Wild and Scenic River Act will pass the House today and go to the President’s desk. With this designation, Rhode Island will have another opportunity to bring home valuable federal dollars to preserve our state’s environment.”
This is the first river system in Rhode Island to receive a Wild and Scenic designation, which will make available new funding and support from the U.S. National Park Service. U.S. Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) sponsored the Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Wild and Scenic River Act in the Senate.
The public lands package, the Natural Resources Management Act (S. 47), also contains a permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which uses revenues from offshore oil and gas leases to preserve public lands. It designates over one million new acres of wilderness and extends protections for migratory birds through 2022. The Natural Resources Management Act passed the Senate last week by a vote of 92-8. The bill now heads to the President’s desk to be signed into law.