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Shaheen Introduces Bill to Direct Restoration and Protection Efforts of the 5-State Connecticut River Watershed Region

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) is introducing the Connecticut River Watershed Partnership Act (CRWPA), which would formalize a partnership between federal, state, local and private entities to promote conservation, restoration, education and recreation efforts in the Watershed and establish a voluntary grant program to facilitate these activities. This collaborative effort will benefit fish and wildlife habitats, protect drinking water sources, enhance flood resilience and help promote access to the Watershed’s public spaces, particularly for excluded and marginalized communities. A companion bill was introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressmembers Jim McGovern (MA-02) and cosponsored by Annie Kuster (NH-02).

“As New England’s longest river, the Connecticut River and its watershed provide vital resources for communities throughout the region and it’s imperative we protect and preserve it,” said Senator Shaheen. “That’s why I’m proud to introduce the Connecticut River Watershed Partnership Act so we can better promote and fund restoration and protection efforts for this critical resource.”

“The Connecticut River is one of New Hampshire’s many natural treasures, and its conservation and restoration will support our environment and economy,” said Senator Hassan. “This important legislation will protect the Connecticut River watershed and help local communities thrive.”

"The Connecticut River is central to the natural wonder, scenic vistas and economy of communities in New Hampshire and throughout New England," said Congresswoman Kuster. "Its watershed impacts the wellbeing of resources that go well beyond the river's banks. That's why this effort to protect the Connecticut River watershed is so critical to the long-term health and resiliency of New Hampshire and the region. I'm proud to help introduce this legislation to protect our environment and economy."

“The Friends (of Conte) are so grateful to Senator Shaheen for her support of the watershed and the many communities that call this place home,” said Markelle Smith, Director of the Friends of Conte. “The Connecticut River Watershed Partnership Act not only helps conserve this vital watershed but ensures our iconic New England landscape draws people to live, work, and play for decades to come.”

“The Connecticut River is one of the most significant river watershed systems in our country,” said Jack Savage, President Society for the Protection of NH Forests.  “Its environmental, economic and cultural impacts are as broad as the geographic area it covers in New England.  Stewarding this unique region must be a priority. The Connecticut River Watershed Partnership Act will help support all the stakeholders meet this important responsibility.  The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests is pleased to support this legislation and we want to express our thanks to Senator Shaheen for her leadership.”

“We applaud Senator Shaheen and Representative McGovern for their vision in applying the successful bipartisan models of the Chesapeake WILD and Delaware River Basin Conservation acts to the Connecticut River Watershed,” said Doug Bechtel, New Hampshire Audubon President. “This Act will provide much-needed funding for the diverse partnerships that are working to protect and restore key areas within the Watershed.  These existing partnerships provide a strong foundation for successful implementation of the Connecticut River Watershed Partnership Act.  We are proud to join with our partners in supporting this legislation.”

The Connecticut River, New England’s longest river, drains a 7.2-million-acre watershed across five New England states: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont. The Watershed is home to 396 communities and provides multiple environmental and economic benefits to diverse stakeholders and industries, including fisheries, farming, hunting, recreation, boating and tourism. The Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge encompasses the entire Watershed and is the only refuge of its kind in the National Wildlife Refuge System.

Specifically, the CRWPA would:

  • Require the Secretary of Interior to establish a non-regulatory Watershed Partnership Program intended to identify, prioritize and implement restoration and protection activities within the Watershed in consultation with federal, state, local and non-profit stakeholders;
  • Create a grant and technical assistance program for state and local governments; tribal organizations; nonprofit organizations; institutions of higher education; and other eligible entities for activities in the Watershed;
  • Implement a 75% Federal cost share for the grant program, except where the Secretary determines a larger cost share is appropriate; and
  • Ensure other activities conducted by the Secretary in the Watershed would supplement, not supplant activities carried out by the partnership program.

The legislation is supported by a broad coalition of public and private organizations throughout New England, including the Friends of the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, The Nature Conservancy, Kestrel Land Trust, the Connecticut River Conservancy and the Appalachian Mountain Club and more.

Along with Shaheen and Hassan, other Senate cosponsors include U.S. Senators Ed Markey (D-MA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Peter Welch (D-VT), Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

Full bill text is available here.

Shaheen has led efforts to safeguard our natural environment. She urged the Biden administration to repeal an order and policy changes made in the final hours of the Trump presidency that would have hurt conservation efforts in New Hampshire. She also fought to secure full funding and permanent authorization for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which has helped protect more than 2.5 million acres of land and supported tens of thousands of state and local outdoor recreation projects throughout the nation.