Taking Care of Our Watershed

The following information is excerpted and adapted from the Watershed Management Plan Chapter VI. This page will be re-written in the near future in a more user friendly format. 05/2007

The Watershed Management Plan includes specific management recommendations of the Eightmile River Study Committee to achieve the long-term protection and enhancement of the Eightmile River Watershed’s outstanding resource values.

The information provided includes:

  • A summary of each outstanding resource value (ORV).
  • The potential threats that could degrade the quality of each ORV.
  • The current protection measures in place for each ORV.
  • Gaps in the current protection mechanisms available to protect the ORVs.
  • The protection goal for each ORV.
  • Indicators for each Outstanding Resource Value. Indicators are the primary characteristics which describe the ORVs (in terms of either important features or processes that define or affect the ORV). Indicators are also important for being able to monitor the quality and long-term viability of the ORV. For example, impervious surface levels are one indicator for “Water Quality.”
  • Indicator Goals for each ORV Indicator. Indicator Goals specifically define what the Indicator should be to fulfill the Protection Goals for each Outstanding Resource Value. Indicator Goals are typically quantifiable to facilitate measurement of success in reaching goals. For example, maintaining less than 4% impervious surface levels in the watershed is one indicator goal for “Water Quality.”
  • Recommended Tier One and Tier Two management tools to be implemented to achieve the goals for each ORV. Each tool identifies the lead agency or organization to achieve its implementation.

Indicator goals are an important component of the recommendations, defining specifically what it means to achieve each ORV goal. Indicator goals are quantitative wherever possible to facilitate measurability and clear definition; however some are in the form of a strategy or policy. The indicators and their goals were developed based on review and consideration of multiple data, assessments and scientific sources and the combined experience and wisdom of the Eightmile Wild and Scenic Study Committee and NPS staff. The Committee balanced a strong commitment to sustaining an outstanding river system with the need to be realistic, feasible and reasonable to all interests. It is intended that as further information becomes available which can better quantify the indicators and/or which may suggest amending these indicators that the Management Plan be flexible enough to allow for such amendment. Any such amendment should continue to ensure an ability to meet the goals and long term quality of the ORVs. The proposed management tools stem in part from considering the Indicator Goals, however, Indicators and Indicator Goals do not themselves represent proposed management tools. It is intended that future monitoring and/or further consideration of the Indicators and Indicator Goals may suggest that additional suggestions for management recommendations may be warranted, however that will be decided by future management efforts.

The recommended management tools were identified as a result of the threats, protection, and gap analysis. The tools are divided into tier one and tier two. The tier one tools are considered the most critical to implement in the short-term and as such it is recommended that within 6-12 months of achieving an affirmative vote of support for Wild & Scenic designation at a town meeting partners will begin the process of implementing tier one tools and will establish a timeline in which to complete such a process. The tier two tools are anticipated to take 2-5 years to implement. Each tool description is preceded by the agency or organization that is recommended for leading the implementation of the suggested tool.

As with the indicators and their goals, it is intended that as further information, better tools, and new innovative cost-effective approaches become available to meet the ORV protection goals such knowledge and strategies should be implemented where appropriate. It is important to note that not all tools will necessarily be applicable to all communities or other partners, as some communities may have already adopted certain tools or have decided on other approaches to achieve the same goals.

As stated earlier, the recommended tools for local commissions and other partners are just that, recommendations. This planning document or the powers of a Wild & Scenic designation can not force a community to adopt them. The actual implementation of these recommendations will require all the formal procedures the commissions must follow especially in considering and potentially adopting any new regulations, including public notice, public hearings, and commission deliberation prior to making a final determination.

Many of the recommended tools require human and financial resources to implement. One of the main benefits of achieving Wild & Scenic designation is the ability to access funding support and technical assistance from the National Park Service to help protect the watershed. It is understood that the local communities, the state or other agencies or organizations may not have the ability to implement these proposed actions without financial or technical support.

The management plan partners, including local municipalities and the state, are strongly encouraged to work on implementing the Draft Eightmile River Watershed Management Plan to the best of their abilities regardless of a Wild & Scenic Designation being achieved, recognizing that the implementation of tools that require funding outside the normal expenditures of the partners may not be pursued until or unless outside funding is secured. If designation is achieved and funding support secured the Eightmile River Wild & Scenic Coordinating Committee and the National Park Service will focus available resources in support of the partners achieving the implementation of the recommended tools.

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Riparian corridors are the lands adjacent to rivers and streams. They are the first line of defense for a river system, and protecting the riparian corridor is a critical first step towards ensuring the long-term quality of river and water resources. Activities in the riparian corridor that remove or alter the functionality of the natural, native vegetative cover can substantially degrade its ability to perform its many ecosystem functions.

Recommended Management Tool: River Protection Overlay Area

  • An overlay area for all perennial streams and rivers in the watershed to protect and enhance the functions and values of the riparian corridor.
  • 50 ft protection for small headwater streams.
  • 100 ft protection on larger streams.
  • Provides flexibility by respecting pre-existing uses and providing for uses consistent with protection of riparian corridor function.

Riparian Corridors:

  • Preserve water quality by filtering sediment and other pollutants from runoff before entering a river, stream or shallow ground water.
  • Protect stream banks from erosion by maintaining an intact root structure along the banks.
  • Provide a storage area for flood waters.
  • Provide food and habitat for fish and wildlife.
  • Provide shade for rivers and streams to keep water temperature low and dissolved oxygen high.

Additional Resources

Connecticut River Joint Commission – Riparian Buffers Publication

Connecticut Coastal Conservation District – Publications

UCONN-Sea Grant-Riparian Buffers and Planting Guides – Publications

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Impervious surfaces, including roofs, roads and parking lots, can affect the water quality and hydrology of a watershed. Impervious surfaces cause increases in polluted stormwater runoff, which can impact nutrient levels, temperature, bacterial load and heavy metals found in our streams and rivers. An impervious cover of as low as 4% has been shown to degrade aquatic life and habitat quality.

The Eightmile River Watershed is currently estimated to have approximately 3% impervious cover. This low level of imperviousness is a key reason why the watershed is still an intact and functioning ecosystem. Various scenarios of how the watershed could be developed suggest that impervious cover could increase to over 11%—which would lead to a substantial degradation of watershed health.

Recommended Management Tool

  • Set Maximum Allowable Impervious Cover
  • Set a maximum impervious cover target of 10% for any local basin within the Eightmile River Watershed.
  • Set a maximum impervious cover target of 4% for the Eightmile River Watershed as whole.
  • Work with the Eightmile River Committee to assess current and potential future imperviousness in each local watershed, and determine the amount of impervious cover still possible to meet the local watershed limit.
  • Develop an effective, appropriate and realistic tool to locally manage impervious cover and pursue the tool’s adoption within each community.

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The size of unfragmented habitat blocks directly affects the distribution of species, and is critical to maintaining biological diversity and ecosystem function. Habitat fragmentation occurs when a large region of habitat is split into a collection of smaller areas. Fragmentation can cause, among other things, changes in species diversity, composition, population size, and community function.

The Eightmile River Watershed currently is substantially unfragmented—26% of the unfragmented blocks are greater than 500 acres in size, 15% are greater than 1,000 acres in size and 5% are greater than 2,500 acres in size.

Recommended Management Tool

Open Space Conservation

  • Work with willing private landowners on a voluntary basis to conserve important habitat areas.
  • Identify remaining unfragmented habitat blocks as high priority for open space conservation in town planning documents such as the Plan of Conservation and Development and the Open Space Plan.
  • Establish a land protection goal for each community and the watershed as a whole, and seek federal funding assistance for land protection as part of Wild & Scenic designation.
  • Commit to working with other partners, such as local land trusts, the Nature Conservancy and the State to leverage resources and collaborate when opportunities arise to protect priority lands.

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Stormwater runoff can have profound affects on water quality, hydrology, stream channel morphology, floodplain function, habitat quality and ecological function. Approximately one-quarter of Connecticut’s major rivers and streams are impaired, and do not meet Clean Water Act standards due to impacts from stormwater runoff. Fortunately, there are a variety of best management practices that can help communities effectively manage stormwater runoff and minimize these potential adverse affects.

Recommended Management Tools

Apply State-of-the-Art Approaches to Managing Stormwater Runoff

  • Require the 2004 CT DEP Stormwater Quality Manual to be used as guidance for the design, implementation and maintenance of all new and existing stormwater systems in each community.
  • Complete and implement a Stormwater Management Plan as described in the State’s General Permit for the Discharge of Stormwater from Small Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems.
  • Adopt guidance from The University of Massachusetts for watercourse crossings (e.g., bridges and culverts), an approach that is used by the New England Region of the Army Corps of Engineers.
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