Utility deal benefits consumers
Agreement should include protection for Vaughn's Neck
The agreement reached last week between the state and Northeast Utilities that will allow the utility to acquire a Boston-based power company has much to recommend it.
A rate credit for every customer, a rate freeze on distribution costs for nearly three years, and investment in system improvements are all beneficial.
Although the credit amounts to an average of only about $16 per customer, it is a good-will gesture, as is the agreement to exclude from rates the first $40 million of cleanup expenses for two major storms last year.
The company estimates it spent $260 million after Tropical Storm Irene in August and the nor'easter in October, each left much of the state without power for a week or more. For those without power, it would be adding insult to injury to have to pay for the full expense of the cleanup.
One of the more important -- and lasting -- aspects of the agreement, however, is the provision to transfer about 1,000 acres of open space to an irrevocable land trust.
Those acres include space on Hanover Road in Newtown near Lake Lillinonah and Skiff Mountain in Sharon.
We urge that Vaughn's Neck on Candlewood Lake be included in that protection.
The pristine, two-mile-long, 700-acre peninsula at the northern end of the lake is the largest contiguous tract of land owned by Northeast Utilities along the lake. It is the top open-space priority in the Housatonic Valley Regional Plan of Conservation and Development.
If Vaughn's Neck were to be developed, it would harm the recreational and aesthetic quality of the lake, including wildlife habitats and fisheries.
Vaughn's Neck must be protected permanently.
Northeast Utilities has had an agreement with the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection that gives the state or town or land trust where open space is located, an option to buy, should NU wish to sell it.
This would afford Vaughn's Neck a modicum of protection from development, but the preferred approach would be to include those acres in the irrevocable land trust.
We also would like to see provision made to keep the Shepaug Eagle Observation Area along the Housatonic River in Southbury open and free to the public, as now, from December through March and on Memorial Day.
Bald eagles nest along the banks of the Housatonic in that area below the dam where fish are plentiful. It is truly a wonder to see the eagles in their habitat, and education is fostered by Audubon Society volunteers at the observation area.
The natural state of these areas need to be -- and ought to be -- protected along with the other 1,000 acres in the agreement between the state of Connecticut and Northeast Utilities.