$9 million in grants set aside for Housatonic restoration New Milford to receive nearly $1 million for river projects
New Milford to receive nearly $1 million for river projects
After 10 years of waiting for the red tape to untangle, New Milford is now set to receive its share of funding for environmental projects from the $9 million set aside for 27 projects in the Housatonic River basin.
It may take another year or so to get the work underway, but the money has been officially allocated after seemingly endless rounds of government reviews.
In all, New Milford will profit from four projects paid for with restoration funds worth nearly $1 million.
"It's been a long, drawn-out process,'' said Elaine LaBella of the Housatonic Valley Association (HVA). The HVA, based in Cornwall, will get nearly $300,000 in the grants, plus share in another $740,000 plan to preserve land in Sharon.
"We're just glad everything is completed,'' Ms. LaBella said.
The money for the grants came from a 2000 settlement between General Electric Co., the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the state environmental agencies in Connecticut and Massachusetts.
For decades, G.E. workers at the company's plant in Pittsfield, Mass. had allowed oil infused with polychlorinated biphenyls -- PCBs -- to seep into the plant, its grounds and the river.
The Housatonic's sediments are now polluted with PCBs -- which the EPA lists as a possible carcinogen -- from Pittsfield to the Long Island Sound. The state of Connecticut warns anglers each year about PCB contamination in the fish they catch.
G.E. agreed to remove the most polluted stretches of sediment in Massachusetts. That work is ongoing. The corporation also agreed to give Massachusetts and Connecticut $7.5 million each for river restoration projects.
Connecticut's efforts to disburse this money were so slow that accumulating interest increased the grant to about $9 million.
The DEP's staff, along with representatives from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, were the trustees in charge of the Connecticut grant program.
The trustees' final list gave the 27 projects a total of about $7 million. Rick Jacobson, the DEP's trustee, said the three trustees would probably use the remaining $2 million funds on aquatic restoration projects -- work to improve the Housatonic's habitat for fish and other aquatic animals.
"We could go back and look at projects we once considered,'' Mr. Jacobson said. "We could issue a new request for proposals. Or we could develop projects among the trustees.''
Although the trustees have settled on a final list, they won't be handing over checks any time soon.
The trustees have to approve project contracts. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will be the conduit for the funding and it may not be available until the federal 2009-2010 budget goes into effect in October.