DEEP: 2009 - Revisions to Stream Flow Regulations Proposed

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Revisions to Stream Flow Regulations Proposed
DEP proposed revisions to the Stream Flow Standard Regulations in response to legislation enacted in 2005.  The revisions are to expand the coverage of the stream flow standards to include all rivers and streams – instead of only to those stocked with fish as has been the case under existing regulations.  The revised standards are also designed to strike a better balance between the  needs of humans to use water for drinking, washing, fire protection, irrigation, manufacturing and recreation with the needs of fish and wildlife that also depend on the availability of water to sustain healthy, natural communities.  Even in a “water-rich” state like Connecticut, competing uses for water can sometimes overwhelm this finite resource.  The regulations establish a strong foundation for maintaining existing uses and insuring that adequate water supplies are available today and for future generations.
A Commissioner’s Advisory Group consisting of numerous stakeholders, a Science and Technical Workgroup and a Policy and Implementation Workgroup worked over the course of more than three years to ensure that the proposed regulations would be based on the best available science and would balance all the various stakeholders’ competing needs.
Four stream classes are proposed: 
  • Class 1 waters are “natural” waters, with little current development in the watershed and few or no water withdrawals. 
  • Class 2 waters are “near natural” waters with a low level of human alteration. 
  • Class 3 waters are “working rivers” where human uses may have a significant influence on stream flow patterns but which still support viable aquatic communities.
  • Class 4 waters have been significantly altered by withdrawals and restoring them to a more natural condition would cause extreme economic hardship. 
The regulation contains both the narrative standard for each class (above descriptions) and a prescriptive (or numeric) standard.  The regulations contain methods for classifying all the streams in the state through a public input process.  Once streams are classified, requirements are imposed on those that affect the streamflow to sustain flow in the stream to support uses appropriate to the stream class.  There are a number of methods for achieving compliance with the standards, such as flow management plans, as well as off-ramps for drought or other emergencies and exemptions for uses with minimal impact to stream flow.
These ground-breaking regulations went to public hearing on January 21, 2010.  As of February 2010, the DEP hearing officer was preparing a report to respond to public comment on the proposed regulations.  Following that report, DEP will determine what, if any revisions, to make in the regulations.  The regulations will then go to the General Assembly’s Committee on Regulations Review for final approval.
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