TO: Connecticut Council on Environmental Quality
FROM: Rivers Alliance of Connecticut
RE: Ethel Walker School aquifer
DATE: February 21, 2006

Dear Chairman Harrison and Members of the Council:

For almost a year, Rivers Alliance has been watching the plans and controversy relating to the development of the open space belonging to Ethel Walker school. I have been distressed to observe that these plans violate the statutory protections for Class I and Class II lands. Despite notice from the Department of Public Health that this is the case, the developer seems to believe that statutory protections for public drinking water lands is a trivial matter.

The school is a water supplier and the property sits atop a valuable drinking water aquifer. This is not a case of a mere technical legal barrier. This aquifer really does need protection. It is an important water source for Simsbury and the state.

Possibly the school can find a legal way around the barriers to development, either using the rather difficult legal process of abandoning its source or getting a legislative exemption. If the school intends to get a legislative exemption, I would hope it would be in the form of a bill open to public debate and not a “rat” attached at the last minute to the budget implementer bill.

If these lands are to be developed, it should be with extraordinary protections for the aquifer in the form of restrictions and easements. Normal zoning and wetlands rules do not allow for sufficient protection.

We strongly urge, however, that the property be conserved as open Class I and II land. As time goes on, and high-quality water becomes ever harder to find, this may well prove to be a better financial investment than selling off the aquifer today.

Thanks for your attention,

Margaret Miner,
Executive Director