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FRWA safeguards river's essential resources
This feature first appeared in the November edition of Today Magazine, our monthly publication Special to Today Magazine Farmington River Watershed Association – FRWA 749 Hopmeadow Street, Simsbury, CT 860-658-4442 Website – www.frwa.org Year Established – 1953
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FRWA Director Aimee Petras and President Michael Feldman answered this Q&A Mission — FRWA is devoted to the protection and preservation of the Farmington River and its watershed through research, education, advocacy and projects that enhance the water quality, wildlife habitat and scenic qualities of the river. The Farmington River is a beautiful and precious natural resource that enhances the quality of life in the Farmington Valley. The river extends 81 miles through 33 towns in Connecticut and Massachusetts. It feeds reservoirs that supply water to 600,000 Connecticut residents. It is home to abundant fish and wildlife.
Most fulfilling aspect of your work? The dedication and camaraderie among the board, staff and volunteers in appreciating and protecting this valuable resource.
Your biggest obstacle and how you overcome it? The main obstacle in conserving the river is to protect against “non-point source pollution” — meaning water runoff and discharges from impermeable surfaces such as asphalt, and lawn fertilizers and pesticides. Non-point source pollution is the #1 water quality problem in the nation. We address it by educating our community about ways to retain, absorb and reduce storm water by individual actions, and by installing storm-water retention projects (also known as green infrastructure) with community partners such as the city of Bristol and the town of Winchester.
Most satisfying accomplishment? Through diligent and tireless advocacy, FRWA has obtained congressional designation of the Farmington as a Wild & Scenic River, a designation that applies to less than 1 percent of Connecticut’s waterways. This recognizes the outstanding natural, scenic and recreational values of the Farmington as a free-flowing river for the enjoyment of present and future generations.
In addition, FRWA has: (1) removed the obsolete Spoonville Dam in East Granby, making the river safer for boaters and swimmers; and (2) acquired, through bequest, a scenic 11-acre parcel along the river in New Hartford, and is now managing and conserving that property.
Goals for the next 1-5 years? • To engage in more opportunities with towns in the Valley to reduce storm-water pollution through multidimensional green infrastructure installations. • To form a regional conservation partnership with Farmington Valley towns, land trusts and other stakeholders that will allow us to conserve and protect the ecological treasures in the Valley.
Volunteers: We have many opportunities to get out on the river and engage in citizen science, water quality monitoring, aquatic insect sampling and (new this year) salt monitoring, and to provide events that allow volunteers to clean up the river and remove invasive plants. We have a volunteer form on our website.
Anecdote that illustrates how you fulfill your mission: We are in this for the long run! Many years ago, a wonderful woman named Lily Frey bequeathed land for FRWA along the river in New Hartford. Her will was contested but after 13 years of legal battles, Lily’s wish that her property be permanently protected is now a reality.
In addition, in a similar time frame, FRWA jump-started the journey to get Wild & Scenic designation for the Lower Farmington River and Salmon Brook. The Upper River, designated in 1994, already had this distinction, but the Lower river and Salmon Brook’s quest to get Wild & Scenic designation took many years and they were finally designated in 2019.
How has COVID impacted your work? COVID has not prevented FRWA from many of its core functions such as water quality monitoring, river cleanups and outdoor recreational activities. It has, however, forced us to utilize remote platforms for education, advocacy and meetings.
Interesting stats and numbers associated with your nonprofit: • The Farmington River is 81 miles long traversing 33 towns. • FRWA safeguards the drinking water source of 600,000 Connecticut residents — 1 in 7 Connecticut residents. • Two river segments are federally designated as Wild & Scenic — the West Branch of the Farmington River, designated in 1994, and the Lower Farmington River and Salmon Brook, designated in 2019.
There is an intense pressure for development in the Valley year after year, which gets closer to the river corridor
• Home to whitewater kayak championship events in Tariffville gorge. • Popular destination for fishing for trout, pike and bass, the Farmington River is the most fished river in the state. • Home to many varieties of freshwater mussels. • Considered one of very few rivers that run in all four compass directions.
Besides donations, how is your work funded? Through grants from the government and private foundations. … Partnerships with other nonprofits and stakeholders are critical to our mission.
What do you appreciate most about the Farmington Valley? We appreciate how well the Farmington Valley communities work together.
What constructive change would you like to see in the Valley? There is an intense pressure for development in the Valley year after year, which gets closer to the river corridor. We hope that landowners and communities would treasure less development along the river corridor and protect the Farmington River for future generations to enjoy.
Number of employees: Full-time: 3 — Part-time: 3
Nonprofit Officers: Mieldman, President • John Laudati, Vice President • Carol Noble, Vice President • Brian Freeman, Treasurer • Beckie Sahl, Secretary • 15 board members overall +
• Related Story — River’s Run Enriches Valley: FRWA preserves Farmington
• This feature was first published in the November 2021 edition of Today Magazine, our monthly publication — our cover story on the FRWA is on page 4
• Today Magazine covers the heart of Connecticut's Farmington Valley, recording the underreported upside of the Valley's five core towns — Avon, Canton, Farmington, Granby and Simsbury