Minutes of the February 4, 2005 meeting of the Council on Environmental Quality, held in the Ensign Room of 79 Elm Street, Hartford.
PRESENT:  Thomas Harrison (Chairman), Howard Beach, John Mandyck, Susan Merrow, Earl Phillips, Wesley Winterbottom, Karl Wagener (Executive Director)
Chairman Harrison called the meeting to order at 9:05 AM and determined that a quorum was present. 
Winterbottom made a motion to approve the minutes of the December 15, 2004 meeting.  Second by Beach.  Approved unanimously.
Chairman’s Report
Chairman Harrison reported that he and Wagener had met with Commissioner Gina McCarthy and had discussed the three-way agreement that had been signed in 2003 by the then-leaders of OPM, DEP, and CEQ regarding CEQ funding.  While the Council had not yet used any DEP funds, Harrison said that Commissioner McCarthy discussed the agreement and that she would honor it through the end of the fiscal year.  Harrison said that the governor’s proposed budget would be released in the next week for the next two fiscal years.  He said that the Council clearly needs two staff persons to function at full efficiency.
Executive Director’s Report
Wagener reiterated that the governor’s proposed budget would be out next week, and that the public hearing before the Appropriations Committee was scheduled for the February 16.
Wagener said he had been made aware of possible legislation that would require notices of certain DEP flood management certifications or exemptions to be published in the Environmental Monitor. This would be the third of fourth category of new notices to be proposed or suggested for the Monitor.  Wagener said they could all be added, technically, fairly easily, but that the site would lose its focus and become complicated for the reader if it is expanded without a coherent plan.  The Council agreed that all requests or proposals to expand the Monitor should be discouraged until the Council can develop a comprehensive plan for expanding the Monitor, which would require financial resources first.
Wagener said he believed the Council would like to publish the annual report in the spring this year, probably in April, and that would require selection of a vendor for design and printing very soon.  Members agreed unanimously to use the same format from last year.
Wagener updated the Council on developments related to Sudden Oak Death Syndrome since Dr. Magnarelli’s presentation at the December meeting.  First, the federal agency (APHIS) issued new inspection requirements in late December.  Wagener said he asked Dr. Magnarelli how four states were able to adopt controls more stringent than the federal ones, as reported in the New York Times, and that Dr. Magnarelli told him those states were not successful in doing so.  Finally, the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station had requested funds for laboratory equipment for more complete testing, and was awaiting word on that proposal.
Wagener recommended adding an agenda item: discussion of the proposed State Policies Plan for Conservation and Development.  Merrow made a motion to add such item to the agenda.  Second by Winterbottom.  Unanimous.
Citizen Complaints
Ash Creek dock permit procedures – Wagener referred to the latest draft of a letter that he had circulated, which all members had received.  Chairman Harrison invited the representatives of the Ash Creek Conservation Association (ACCA) to identify themselves and make a statement.  Gail Robinson, ACCA President, and Board Member Donna Curran spoke about their experiences as intervenors in the in the permit hearings.  First, Ms. Robinson clarified an inaccuracy in the CEQ regarding the DEP staff’s position at the beginning of the hearings; the staff at first recommended approval, then asked for more time to consider the Division of Aquaculture’s comments.  They then described the disadvantages their organization experienced in the hearings, on which they had spent more than $30,000 on legal representation and technical consultants.  They found the terms of the hearing so restrictive it was almost impossible for concerned people like themselves to discuss the application and its possible problems.  They could not introduce a tide chart from the NOAA website, for example, and they could not talk about the impacts of the boat that would be using the proposed dock.  They could not discuss cumulative impacts, impacts to wildlife from the boat traffic to the dock, and the applicant’s compliance history.  It was like a criminal court proceeding.  On the other hand, the applicant spoke freely with DEP staff between hearings.  Ms. Robinson said the financial burden was substantial, and her group could get funds to restore damaged parts of the creek but no funds to protect the undamaged parts.
Members discussed the draft letter.  Merrow made a motion to send the draft letter, subject to one more review by e-mail of some suggested changes.  Second by Beach.  Approved unanimously.
Other coastal complaints – Wagener referred to the draft letter in members’ packets responding to a citizen’s concerns about mowing tidal wetlands.  Even though the land below mean high water is owned by the state, apparently no agency, including the DEP, is empowered to stop or regulate the practice.  Harrison made a motion to send the letter, with minor corrections.  Second by Winterbottom.  Approved unanimously.
Transfer of property at Norwich State Hospital – Chairman Harrison invited David Bingham to introduce himself and speak.  Mr. Bingham of Salem said he is a retired physician who treated patients at Norwich State Hospital (NSH).  He distributed a handout that included his statement, and showed on a map the large tract of undeveloped land that is included with the NSH property.  He pointed out that the state has offered the land to the Town of Preston, but has not conducted a review of the natural resources of the site.  He suggested that it made sense to know what is on the land before giving it away for one dollar.  Wagener explained some of the history of the project, including the opportunity that all state agencies had in 1997 to indicate an interest in the property.  However, Wagener said, he did not believe the DEP conducted a review of the property, which stands in contrast to current policy which is to review all properties being “surplused” by other agencies.  Phillips asked about possible legal or contractual barriers.  Mr. Bingham said he understood that the land has been offered but no contract has been signed.  He also said he understood that there are no immediate or concrete plans to use the property.  Margaret Miner of the Rivers Alliance, speaking from the audience, said that any of the land that could be a buffer to the river or cove should be protected while it is still owned by the state.
By consensus, the Council agreed to send a letter to DPW, OPM, and DEP, recommending that a natural resource evaluation be completed.  Such an evaluation could be useful regardless of the final disposition of the land.  This would apply only to the undeveloped land.  The letter should also confirm that this sort of review should be done up front in future cases, a confirmation of present DEP policy as it is understood.  Wagener would draft a letter for review and approval by e-mail.
Others – Mandyck asked if the Council ever submitted a list of recommended priority actions to the legislature, such as the recommended possible statutory amendments in the tidal wetlands letter above.  Members discussed various ways in which priorities have been communicated, and Wagener suggested a special page in the annual report for summarizing these recommendations.
Review of State Agency Projects
CEPA Regulations – Members discussed the draft letter in their packets.  Merrow made a motion to send the letter to the DEP and OPM.  Second by Beach.  Approved unanimously.
State Policies Plan for Conservation and Development – Wagener said that the issue, raised in December, was very timely, as the legislative hearing on the proposed Plan was on February 7. Members discussed the draft testimony that was circulated prior to the meeting. Harrison made a motion to approve the testimony.  Second by Merrow.  Approved unanimously.
Other Business
Chairman Harrison reviewed the pros and cons of possible starting times, and it was agreed that the starting time would continue at 9:00 AM for two or three more meetings to see how it worked out. 
Winterbottom made a motion to adjourn.  Second by Mandyck.  Unanimous.  Chairman Harrison declared the meeting adjourned at 11:30 AM.