Posted on February 14, 2020 by admin
Opinion by State Representative Livvy Floren
Greenwich is a town with beautiful natural landscapes, and we take pride in keeping it that way. Recently, our local government and the Greenwich Land Trust (GLT) agreed to split the cost of acquiring a 72-acre parcel of land from Aquarion in the backcountry. Since the company has no use for the land, they are working with the town, GLT, and the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) to turn the property over to the public for a reasonable price, and they plan to use the proceeds to enhance water quality for customers by investing in capital projects.
Our drinking water supply is one of our most valuable, and vulnerable, natural resources. Last session, I supported a resolution approving the State Water Plan, which will focus on long-term sustainability and water purity for all Connecticut residents. This recent announcement by Aquarion, GLT, and the town supports the overall goal of the State Water Plan and proves that environmental stewardship is everyone’s responsibility.
This is an example of public-private partnership at work. In 2004, then State Senator Chris Murphy and I collaborated on legislation, which eventually became Public Act 04-200. This law encourages water companies, such as Aquarion, to sell land adjacent to their reservoirs to buyers who would preserve the property for passive recreation, as opposed to commercial or residential real estate development.
Our proposal was not successful at first amid concerns that requiring conservation easements would result in the taking of water company-owned land by eminent domain. We developed a new strategy and with support from the Water Planning Council, the Commissioner of Public Health, the governor, and members from both sides of the aisle, we prevailed. Ultimately, this became an issue of environmental protection, public health, and good economics, and many local leaders recognized the advantage of working with our state utility companies in a manner that is mutually beneficial to their shareholders, their customers, and their host communities.
I am thrilled this land will soon be available for public enjoyment and I hope this success story serves as a model for future public-private partnerships. When smart government, corporate citizenship, and the local community come together, the possibilities are endless.