Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Vernon backs study of Tankerhoosen water quality

By Jason Rowe
Journal Inquirer
November 2, 2005

VERNON — The Town Council on Tuesday authorized $4,500 in town funds to be used for a water-quality study of the Tankerhoosen River.

The council voted 11-0 to authorize the funding, which would help complete the $37,000 needed for the study of the river.

Democrat Thomas C. Colbert was absent from Tuesday night's meeting.

Backers of the study have said development in town poses a threat to the long-term health of the watershed.

That issue has played a role in the rejection of two major commercial development proposals near exit 67 from Interstate 84.

In June 2004, the Inland Wetlands Commission rejected an application to build a Wal-Mart Supercenter in that area, citing the possibility of a detrimental impact on the Tankerhoosen River.

In August 2003, the commission rejected a developer's application for a wetlands permit to build a Home Depot in the area.

The study will look at water quality at as many as eight locations along the river, from its headwaters to the confluence of the Tankerhoosen and Hockanum rivers near Connecticut Golf Land in the Talcottville section of town.

The Friends of Hockanum River Linear Park, along with the state Department of Environmental Protection, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and the North Central Conservation District, are conducting the study, which will include chemical tests of water quality and biological monitoring.

In August, the Friends received a $25,000 federal grant to complete the assessment.

The town provided the group with another $4,500 through the Conservation Commission's budget, Town Administrator Laurence R. Shaffer said in an Oct. 27 memorandum to Mayor Ellen L. Marmer and the Town Council.

Shaffer told the council that the additional $4,500 approved Tuesday by the council would come from the town's "downstream fund," which has a surplus of more than $46,000.

The downstream fund holds money collected from sewer hook-up fees.

"The Vernon Town Council has wisely supported this effort in the past, and it would appear that the additional $4,500 will ensure that this project is completed in an appropriate fashion," Shaffer wrote.

The remaining $3,000 would be provided, in-kind, by administrative services performed by the Friends, Shaffer said.

Without the additional funding, the scope of the study would have to be scaled back, according to an Oct. 25 letter to Shaffer from Ann Letendre, the secretary and treasurer of the Friends.

"We believe it is important to adhere to the original program plan in order to conduct a complete and credible study," Letendre wrote in the letter, which was also signed by Conservation Commission Chairman Sheryl McMullen and Conservation District Manager David Askew.

The water-quality studies are part of a larger effort to conduct a "state of the watershed assessment" of the Tankerhoosen.

The headwaters of the river, a 2.9-square-mile sub-basin in northeastern Vernon, is bisected by Interstate 84.

Baseline water quality data will be used to identify high-quality areas and to define and protect areas in need of restoration.

Letendre has said the Friends hope that the results of the assessment will be incorporated into the town's land-use approval process and the planned 2008 update of the town's plan of conservation and development.

A number of residents have fought to stave off large-scale development in the watershed.