A regional planning group in northwestern Connecticut is calling on the stateâ€™s environmental commissioner to intervene in the Housatonic River Natural Resource Restoration project, but the Commissioner says the process is fair and open.
In mid-December the Government group in charge of funding restoration projects on the Housatonic river released a draft short-list of projects for possible funding. The Department of Environmental Protection is one of three government agencies thatâ€™s choosing which projects get funded, but that shortlist includes nearly $5.7 million for D.E.P projects or about 44% of the total funding.
On Friday Dan McGuinness of the Northwestern Connecticut Council of Governments wrote D.E.P Commissioner Gina McCarthy asking her to intervene in the restoration in order to bring "some semblance of credibility and fairness" to the project. McGuinness' group partnered with The Nature Conservancy on a project that was not funded. McGuinness says his critique may look like sour grapes, but that itâ€™s a question of fairness.
"You got an agency that is voting on it, that is staffing it and all of the sudden a good portion of the money is going to their projects. It feels like youâ€™ve been set up, " said McGuinness.
But Rick Jacobson of the D.E.P. says itâ€™s not only Connecticutâ€™s environmental agency which is choosing which projects get funded, but two federal agencies. Jacobson says it would be irresponsible of the D.E.P. not to develop projects on the river since the agencyâ€™s overall mission is to protect the stateâ€™s natural resources
"Our primary responsibility is to develop the best restoration plan we can. We're looking to get best ideas and projects from wherever they can come from. What we have little concern where the money goes per se other than to the best projects available," Jacobson said.
Dan McGuiness also points out in his letter that the public was given only until January 4, or seventeen days including Christmas and New Year's to prepare written comments on the proposed shortlist. Today the comment period was extended until January 22 with the goal of finalizing the shortlist by late February.