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UConn Extends Comments Deadline on Proposal that Could Affect Farmington River Watershed

Canton officials authorize letter opposing MDC option.

The University of Connecticut has extended the deadline for written comments on the environmental impact of its plan to tap into an existing water supply for current and future needs.

Originally set to close Dec. 21, people can now submit comments through Jan. 4, 2013. Follow this link for the address. Earlier in the week, Simsbury officials sought a 30-day extension and many have called for a public hearing in the Farmington Valley. 

The town of Canton plans to take advantage of that process to strongly oppose one of three alternatives being discussed — diverting as much as 1.93 million gallons of water daily from MDC water supplies on the Farmington River.

Tapping into another water supply system is necessary to keep up with demands for the school’s proposed technology park as well as future developments. In addition, the diversion would help Mansfield keep up with demands and potentially serve Windham, Coventry, Tolland, Bolton, Manchester, East Hartford, South Windsor, and Vernon, according to the project Web site

The alternatives under discussion include connecting with The Connecticut Water Company’s Northern Operations Western System in Tolland, Windham Water Works in Mansfield or the MDC’s infrastructure in East Hartford. Water would come from MDC reservoirs in Barkhamsted and Nepaug.

Chris Stone, Assistant District Counsel to the MDC contacted Patch with a fact sheet to clear up some "misconceptions" in the media coverage of the proposal.

"The MDC has the existing capacity within its safe yield to supply 12 million gallons of water per day (MGD) to future customers without impacting existing customers or diverting additional water from the Farmington River," Stone said.

Of the three options being considered, Stone argues that the MDC is best suited to take on the added customer base.

"The Metropolitan District is the only preferred alternative from the EIE which has both the existing supply and treatment plant capacity to provide the water needed to the Town of Mansfield and the University of Connecticut.

This week Canton selectmen voiced several concerns and asked Chief Administrative Officer Robert Skinner to draft a letter opposing the MDC proposal.

First Selectman Richard Barlow acknowledged that the MDC does have the capacity and legal ability to pull more water from those reservoirs but expressed several concerns.

While the study states the MDC would keep to its minimal flow and other requirements, Barlow said he still felt less water could affect the every aspect of the river.

"It would affect the aquatic community, habitat, aesthetics, recreation and potentially hydropower if the town goes forward with that,” Barlow said.

Barlow also questioned why the proposal is even on the table when there are alternatives closer to the project towns.

In addition to the huge infrastructure needed, it’s also poor planning to move water from one river basin to another, he said.

“The MDC option is like bringing it from the back side of the moon,” he said.

In addition, the infrastructure would open up a whole host of opportunities for water to be tapped elsewhere, especially if required by the state health department, Barlow said.

“To me this opens up a tremendous franchise area to the MDC,” Barlow said.

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