Minutes of the March 23, 2005 meeting of the Council on Environmental Quality, held in the Holcombe Conference Room, 5th Floor, 79 Elm Street, Hartford. 

PRESENT:  Thomas Harrison (Chairman), Susan Mendenhall, Norman VanCor, Richard Sherman, Karl Wagener (Executive Director)

Chairman Harrison called the meeting to order at 9:10 AM. 

In his Chairman’s Report, Harrison said he had received a copy of the resignation letter submitted by Kevin Case, who had resigned because his schedule made it impossible to attend most of the meetings.  Harrison also said, in a follow-up to an item from the previous meeting, that he would recuse himself from all discussions of the Unilever discharge case in Clinton, for the reason that his firm represents Unilever in some matters.

In the Executive Director’s report, Wagener said that he was working on the annual report, which was delayed a week or so because he missed several days due to illness.  He also said he had testified at the legislature on the bill that would require certain flood management-related notices to be published in the Environmental Monitor; he said he told the Environment Committee that the Monitor could be expanded but that the Council needed to accommodate several expansion proposals, and needed a plan to do it.

Condition of Connecticut State Parks

Harrison introduced Paula Schiller and Susan Mentser of Friends of Connecticut State Parks, who presented the results of a recent consultant’s report on the unmet maintenance and operation needs of the state parks.  The presentation included an overview of their 8,000-member organization and background on Connecticut’s state park and forest systems.  Important facts include:

·          The parks received 8 million visitors in 2004

·          CT is 47th among the 50 states in the percentage of state budget spent on parks; in CT it is 0.09%, while the U.S. average is 0.24%

·          Current issues are decayed infrastructure; inadequate staff and educational programs; and cleanliness and safety.

They presented highlights of the recent analysis of 51 state parks prepared by Clough Harbour Associated (CHA), including:

·          The parks need substantial operating and capital improvements.  Capital needs are $187 million over 10 years.

·          The need for more full-time staff is the most critical issue.  There are 86 full-time positions now, but 204 are needed.

·          Equipment needs total about $3.8 million per year, but the parks are receiving only $127,000, resulting in aged and obsolete equipment in the parks.

·          The 2010 plan, proposed several years ago by Governor Rowland, called for spending $114 over 12 years.  $58 million had been spent so far, including $24 million on Fort Trumbull State Park.  Five parks have received 75% of the capital funds.  Funds have been diverted to non-park projects, and now the funds being made available through bonding have plummeted.

·          The parks need $187 million in capital improvements in addition to the money from the 2101 plan.

The Friends of Connecticut State Parks is recommending 100% funding of the CHA recommendations, and a new 2020 Plan (on top of the 2010 Plan).  After several questions and answers, the Council agreed that it was an issue that warranted action, and decided that it should be put on the agenda for further discussion at an upcoming meeting.  Members thanked Ms. Schiller and Ms. Mentser, and promised to follow up.

Citizen Complaints

Ash Creek – Wagener reported that the letter had been sent to DEP Commissioner Gina McCarthy.

Norwich State Hospital – Wagener reported that the letter had not been sent.  After his absence due to illness, he and Harrison realized that to send it in mid-March would cause it to arrive in Preston near the March 22 referendum there, and they did not want to create a perception that the Council was trying to influence the referendum.  The preliminary agreement was approved by the voters.  Wagener would circulate the draft for final review, and Harrison would make any necessary changes and send it.

Mowing tidal wetlands – Wagener reported that the citizen had written to thank the Council for its thorough response and for alerting the DEP to the illegal dock that was in one of the photos.  The citizen expressed interest in working on appropriate legislation, Wagener said.

Unilever  Harrison left the room.  Wagener said that the DEP had announced that Unilever would submit a new application to move its discharge.  This would provide an opportunity for a public hearing, which is what the Council had advocated. 

Forest Practices Advisory Board – The Council had received copies of correspondence from the Bolton Conservation Commission to Governor Rell which asked the governor to fill the vacancies on the FPAB.  These seats, to be filled by representatives of an environmental organization and an inland wetlands agency, had been vacant for years.  Wagener said he had been asked by the Commission to bring this to the Council’s attention.

Farmington wetlands – Wagener said that he had received a detailed complaint from a Mr. Bruce Fernandez, who was in the audience.  He summarized the complaint, saying that large areas of a property in Farmington had apparently been filled in recent years.  Although several maps and aerial photos clearly showed the presence of a watercourse, in Wagener’s estimation, the town had decided that no violation had occurred.  According to memos provided by Mr. Fernandez, the town wetlands agency reviewed maps, but not the maps that showed the watercourses and wetlands.  The fill reportedly came from a town-sponsored project.  Members agreed that Wagener should draft a letter to the DEP Commissioner for review by the Council.

Review of State Agency Projects

Wagener said that no comments were required on any projects at this time.

Discussion of annual report topics

Wagener distributed a page that illustrated a new format for the indicator graphs, one that showed improvement and decline more clearly.  Members agreed that it should work.  The draft report would be distributed in advance of the next meeting.

Harrison adjourned the meeting at 11:30 AM.