To help commemorate our 40th anniversary, we have big plans for the river in 2017. Guided by our new Strategic Plan and galvanized by the tragic consequences of the 2016 drought and renewed development pressure, we hope to make significant progress on the major issues facing the river.
Chief among these issues is water withdrawals. Although we have made steady progress in this area, the drought showed us that we have much more work to do. Moreover, the State’s 20-year water withdrawal permits are due to be renewed this year, giving us a once-in-a-generation opportunity to influence how much and under what conditions water can be taken by our cities, towns, and large private users. We will also work on several other avenues to keep more water in the river to help make it more resilient to climate change. We will tirelessly advocate for more effective regulations, promote new water conservation techniques, and identify alternative sources of water to supplement local supplies.
We are also poised to take major strides forward in our River Restoration Program. Now that our cutting edge assessment of more than 1,000 man-made barriers (dams, bridges, culverts, roads, etc.) is complete, we will work with owners and other partners to increase the pace of removal and other improvements to reduce the impact that these structures have on flooding, water quality, and fish and wildlife. We will increase fish habitat monitoring and develop plans to restore the river’s once-thriving native fisheries. We will celebrate the 20th year of our RiverWatch citizen science water monitoring program by adding more sampling locations and pollution indicators to keep our drinking water clean and healthy, preventing anything like what happened in Flint, Michigan from happening here. We will redouble efforts to keep the river clean for everyone, including the 125 families that are dependent on a thriving clam industry, part of our regional economy that is most at risk from the impacts of pollution.
We will continue to get more people out on the river, especially new people. We will complete our 30-mile River Trail and its network of 20 boat landings and educational kiosks. Our new youth group outing program will expand during its second year. We will hold a bigger and better Paddle-a-thon at a more central location and will connect with more people than ever before, sharing this wonderful resource in our backyards. We hope you will all join us for a year-long celebration!