Minutes of the June 28, 2006 meeting of the Council on Environmental Quality, held in the Russell Room, 3rd Floor, 79 Elm Street, Hartford.

PRESENT:  Thomas Harrison (Chairman), Howard Beach, Susan Mendenhall, Earl Phillips, Richard Sherman, Norman VanCor, Barbara Wagner, Wesley Winterbottom, Karl Wagener (Executive Director), Stephanie Cangiano (intern).

Harrison convened the meeting at 9:05 AM and determined that a quorum was present. 

Beach made a motion to approve the May 24, 2006 minutes.  Sherman seconded the motion. Approved unanimously, with Mendenhall and Winterbottom abstaining for the reason that he had not been present.

Chairman’s Report

Chairman Harrison said he had good news relative to the recently-adopted budget for Fiscal Year 2007.  In a change from the report of the previous month, he said the Council was assigned a full time Environmental Analyst position, though the monetary appropriation would only allow that position to be filled for half of the year.  Members concurred that this was preferable to a part-time position.

Executive Director’s Report 

Wagener introduced Stephanie Cangiano, a student at Eastern Connecticut State University, who is working as intern for the summer.  Members welcomed her enthusiastically.

Wagener reported that the annual report had been delivered to Governor M. Jodi Rell, Commissioner of Environmental Protection Gina McCarthy, and all legislators. 

Wagener said the Council had been asked to co-sponsor the 2nd annual Connecticut Forest Conservation Forum, to be held in November.  By consensus, the Council agreed to be a co-sponsor.

Review of State Agency Projects

New Hartford Sewage Treatment Facility – Wagener reported that he had met with DEP staff and had explained the Council’s concerns which it had expressed in its comments on the Environmental Impact Evaluation (EIE).  DEP staff said that the engineers had upped the estimated flows and proposed capacity of the proposed New Hartford plant; it was now proposed to handle 400,000 gallons per day, which is four times its current capacity.  Wagener said that the project planning had been funded by a Small Town Economic Assistance Program grant, and that the project had not been approved yet for Clean Water Fund grants or loans.  Eric Hammerling, Executive Director of the Farmington River Watershed Association, speaking from the audience, said that a non-degradation requirement applied to the river because of federal Wild and Scenic designation, and he wanted to know that the technology would result in better effluent despite the fourfold increase in volume.  Wagener said that the DEP was requiring the town to hold another public meeting because of the new estimates, and that the DEP’s formal response to the Council’s previous comments would be forthcoming.  Members discussed the letter that the Council had sent to the Office of Policy and Management recommending changes to the environmental review for STEAP grants (though they would not have applied to this one), and the lack of response.

Proposed State Public Health Facility, Rocky Hill – Members discussed the draft comments that staff had prepared for the Environmental Impact Evaluation for the proposed laboratory that would be constructed on DEP-managed open space, and agreed to send the comments as drafted. The primary topic of the comments was the question of whether having the DEP purchase replacement open space with its limited resources could be considered mitigation.  Dr. Elise Gaulin-Kremer, Public Health Administrator with the Department of Public Health, thanked the Council for its comments and said they would be given careful consideration.

Downtown Torrington Redevelopment – Wagener said he reviewed the EIE for this large project, which would involve 30 million dollars in state funding.  There were impacts to numerous historic structures, and the project planners were working with the State Historic Preservation Officer on acceptable alternatives.  Because of the SHPO had unique expertise in this area, Wagener said he did not recommend submitting any comments at this time.  After some discussion of the project and its potential effects on the river, members concurred.

Others – Wagener distributed a fact sheet regarding state land conservation programs that had been prepared by an ad hoc group of organizations that were interested in revitalizing such programs.  Cangiano had helped by supplying data that had been collected by the Council.  Wagener said he also discovered that the state’s open space plan expired at the end of June.  Members agreed to send a letter to Commissioner McCarthy urging adoption of a new plan and to offer the Council’s assistance.

Sherman raised the question of whether the University of Connecticut’s (UConn) proposed construction of a parking lot on its old landfill was subject to the Connecticut Environmental Policy Act.  Wagener said he would look into that.

Wagener said that UConn had invited the Council to be a participating agency in the federal scoping process for the extension of the North Hillside Road.  After some discussion, members agreed it should decline this invitation, as it did not have the expertise or staff time to contribute, but it would stay abreast of the project.

Citizen Complaints

Wagener distributed a letter that had been received from a resident of Avon who was so impressed with the Farmington River Watershed Association (FRWA) that he thought it should receive more state assistance.

Frank Plona, Project Manager of Farmington Valley Trout Unlimited described a development project in Canton that had received an inland wetlands permit from the town.  He said the project did not appear to adhere to the conditions of the permit, but that the town did not enforce its permit conditions. He would like to see the state be able to take action in such situations.  Eric Hammerling of FRWA and Margaret Miner of the Rivers Alliance of Connecticut spoke about the need to have more state oversight of wetlands enforcement.  After some discussion of other states’ and federal models for enforcement, and the desire of towns to avoid costly legal action, members agreed to schedule a meeting soon for in-depth discussion of this matter.  Members thanked the speakers, and Mr. Plona submitted some documents to explain the canton case.

Wagener said he had received another wetlands-related letter from Canton, inquiring as to whether weed-whacking a wetland is a regulated activity, which he said he would look into.

Regarding the Farmington wetlands complaint, he said the town had asked for and received an extension from the DEP to reply to the latter’s letter.

Harrison adjourned the meeting at 10:20, to allow the room to be set up for the 10:30 news briefing.