Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Will Join National Wild and Scenic River System

Legislation granting Rhode Island and Connecticut waterways new protections and eligibility for federal funding signed into law

WASHINGTON – U.S. Congressmen Jim Langevin (D-RI), Joe Courtney (D-CT), and David Cicilline (D-RI) today announced that their legislation to protect portions of the Wood-Pawcatuck watershed was signed into law by the President as part of a bipartisan public lands package. The Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Wild and Scenic River Act designates several waterways within the 300-square mile Wood-Pawcatuck watershed as part of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System, establishing the first river system in Rhode Island with a “Wild and Scenic” designation. This designation formally recognizes the natural, cultural and recreational characteristics of these waterways and grants eligibility for additional federal preservation funding for conservation and stewardship.

“This is a significant victory for Rhode Island that would not have been possible without the dedication of our local advocates who worked tirelessly to make this designation a reality,” said Congressman Langevin. “After years of hard work at the local, state and federal levels, we are taking a firm step to preserve the beauty and ecological value of the Wood-Pawcatuck waterways for generations to come. I thank my colleagues in the Rhode Island and Connecticut delegations for their longstanding commitment to protecting this natural resource.”

“Today, the President signed into law legislation that codifies the Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed as an entity of the National Park Service’s Wild and Scenic Program,” said Congressman Courtney. “This designation will bring much-needed funding for research and conservation to our own natural treasure in Connecticut and Rhode Island. I’m proud to have helped getting this bill over the finish line with my colleagues, and I know there are numerous stakeholders on the ground ready to get to work to preserve the Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed for generations to come.”

“At a time when environmental protections seem to be under attack by this White House, this is an important moment for our state,” said Congressman Cicilline. “Now that the Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Wild and Scenic River Act has been signed into law, this watershed is the first Rhode Island river system to be accepted into the National Wild Scenic River System. This means more federal money for stronger environmental protections that will help shield our state’s rivers and tributaries from the President’s harmful environmental policies. I’m proud of the work our delegation has done to achieve this designation, but I know there’s a lot of work left to be done to protect Rhode Island’s waterways.”

The process to designate the Wood-Pawcatuck watershed first began when Congressmen Langevin and Courtney introduced the Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Protection Act in 2010. That bill commissioned a study to determine whether the rivers met the criteria for designation as “Wild and Scenic.” The bill was signed into law in 2014, and the Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Association (WPWA) subsequently formed a committee of local and state government officials, non-profit organizations, and other key stakeholders to create a stewardship plan that reflected the unique qualities of the watershed. Following extensive outreach and public education efforts, all twelve municipalities within the Wood-Pawcatuck watershed adopted the stewardship plan supporting inclusion in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.

U.S. Senators Jack Reed (D-RI), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Chris Murphy (D-CT) sponsored the Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Wild and Scenic River Act in the United State Senate.

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