Minutes of the October 22, 2008 meeting of the Council on Environmental Quality, held in the New London City Council Chambers, 181 State St., New London.

PRESENT: Thomas Harrison (Chairman), M. Howard Beach, Richard Sherman, Norman VanCor, Barbara Wagner, Wesley Winterbottom, Karl Wagener (Executive Director), Peter Hearn (Environmental Analyst).

Chairman Harrison convened the meeting at 9:04 AM.  A quorum was present.

Chairman Harrison asked for a motion to approve the minutes of the September 24, 2008 meeting.  VanCor moved to approve. Winterbottom seconded and the minutes were approved, with Wagner, who had not been at that meeting, abstaining.

Executive Director’s Report

Wagener began by calling the Council’s attention to the disclaimer at the top of the draft minutes. He said it would appear on all draft minutes prior to their approval. This was a consequence of a new law that became effective October 1st requiring state agencies to post their minutes online within 48 hours of a meeting.

The press release about “Swamped”, the Council’s report on the Connecticut wetlands law, had been picked up by the Associated Press and received fairly wide coverage including out of state papers. Many in-state papers ran editorials calling for attention to the report’s conclusions.

Wagener reported that the Council had submitted a budget option with a 10% reduction, as requested by the Office of Policy and Management (OPM). He stated to OPM that if the reduction were put in place the Council would no longer be able to publish its annual report in print.

Wagener noted that the governor’s budget deficit mitigation proposes to recover the 13 million dollars in bottle deposit escheats that go unclaimed. He also noted that other dedicated funds at DEP like the Conservation Fund are projected to be in the red soon and that is an issue in the wings that will have to be addressed in the near future.

Citizen Complaints

Wagener reported that the DEP was close to executing an agreement with several other agencies for studying the effects of used tire crumbs on synthetic athletic fields, using funds from a pollution settlement.  Wagener said the Council has received inquiries about these fields, and he will inform the citizens of the study.

Review of State Agency Actions

Hammonasset Erosion Study - The Environmental Impact Evaluation for a beach erosion control project has been completed and posted in the Environmental Monitor. There are three options to deal with the gradual disappearance of the beach at Hammonasset State Park: 1) no action, 2) retreat, 3) Replenishment, with the option of a groin to retain the sand. Wagener said the cost was likely to be controversial, but he did not see a need for the council to comment on the EIE, as it appeared to analyze the impacts thoroughly. Sherman asked about the potential consequences of “no action”. Wagener said there would be some negative effects on wildlife habitat and on human visitation, and considerable park infrastructure might be destroyed.

Plainfield Cell Tower - Wagener asked for a motion to include this item on the agenda, since it had arrived in the office too recently to have been included on the published agenda. Chairman Harrison motioned to include it; seconded by Winterbottom and approved by all. Wagener said that the proposed Plainfield tower was one of many proposed in rural areas and suggests the question “at what point do such disruptions become sufficient to reject an application?” Wagener recommended approval of a memo, a draft of which was distributed prior to the meeting, to the Siting Council calling for the adoption of criteria to more objectively evaluate the scenic impact of this and other telecommunications tower proposals. Winterbottom moved to approve the memo. Motion was seconded by Beach and approved unanimously.

Other Business

VanCor reminded the Council that it had recommended in the past that the Norwich Hospital grounds should be subject to a natural resources inventory before it is transferred out of state hands and that staff should stay on top of this issue since it may revert to state ownership in ’09. Wagener said that if it does revert and is transferred again it would be subject to the new law governing the transfer of state lands.

Wagener said that the Council will again be one of the sponsors of the Forest Conservation and Research Forum on November 25.

Winterbottom said that the DEP had approved a “package” waste treatment system at the former Griswold Airport and would like the staff to provide the Council with information on the conditions attached to the permit.

Due to a scheduling conflict the date of the November Council meeting was changed from November 19 to November 20.

The meeting was adjourned at 9:40 AM.

Public Forum

At 10:00 AM the Council’s public forum began. Citizens spoke on a range of topics that included:

  • the need to monitor and regulate toxic pollutants, especially styrene, from the in-place curing of sewer pipe liners,
  • the need for improved rail transportation along the I-95 and I-91 corridors, including examination of the restriction on the number of trains allowed through to southeast Connecticut to accommodate boaters,
  • recommendations for enabling legislation to allow towns to change property taxes to be based on the land value rather than the value of the improvements on it as a way of increasing incentives to develop greater density in urban areas,
  • need for greater control of polluted runoff from DOT property into drinking water sources,
  • need for greater protection of inland wetlands and specifically more tools for local agencies to prevent incremental damage through piecemeal development,
  • need to protect biodiversity to protect human health,
  • changes to the legislative definition of farms, so that small farms that supply local restaurants could be preserved,
  • changes of Public Act 490 to permit tax reductions for farms that provide benefits such as wildlife habitat but that might not be profitable,
  • recommendations for enabling legislation for municipal conservation funds based on real estate transfer taxes,
  • investigation into the authority behind the cutting of 45 trees at Bluff Point,
  • requiring the DEP to submit to environmental screening prior to actions like the creation of a several acre paved parking lot at Gardner Lake,
  • examination of the tax exemption for church-held brownfields that are impeding re-development in urban areas,
  • enable fees on development that would allow municipalities to perform the necessary inspection and maintenance of detention ponds, some of which don’t function properly and are health hazards,
  • ask the DEP to support conversion of small farms in the city to community gardens to keep them from being developed when sold,
  • clean energy grants for installation of tide-based electric generators under rail way bridges that span inlets and coves, at the same time those coves are restored by enhancing tidal flow through the railroad causeways,

The forum concluded at 11:55 AM.  Chairman Harrison thanked everyone for their informative remarks, and said that all who spoke will get a response from the Council in the near future. More detailed notes on the forum are available in the Council office.