THE WEST BRANCH OF THE FARMINGTON RIVER
The MDC is just one of many stakeholders in the Farmington River. Although MDC’s role on the Farmington is significant, and covers more than a century of the river’s history, MDC’s role is often misunderstood.
As stated previously, only a small fraction (14%) of the Farmington River’s drainage area of 609 square miles is controlled by the MDC for drinking water purposes. The MDC also plays a role in the management of approximately 120 square miles of the West Branch of the Farmington River. The regulation of river flow release primarily takes place at the MDC’s Goodwin Dam and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer’s Colebrook River Dam.
Colebrook River Dam, which impounds Colebrook River Lake, is owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and is a multipurpose water resource impoundment built for flood control, water supply, riverflow augmentation and fisheries enhancement. This dam is operated through an interagency agreement between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, CT Department of Energy & Environmental Protection and the MDC.
The MDC owns and operates Goodwin Dam and makes releases to the West Branch of the Farmington River in accordance with the Connecticut General Statutes, a riparian agreement, and an agreement with the Allied Connecticut Towns.
Pursuant to these obligations, required releases from Goodwin Dam occur as follows:
• Minimum release of 50 cubic feet per second (cfs) (or 32 mgd) at all times;
• Additional release of all natural flows up to 150 cfs;
• Additional release of any flows released from Otis Reservoir;
• Additional riparian releases upon request by the Farmington River Power Company, up to 21.7 billion gallons per year; and
• Pass through of fisheries releases from Connecticut DEEP controlled pools in Colebrook River Lake.
Without this water release protocol, the flows within the river would frequently be below 25 cfs during the summer months. Today MDC releases a minimum of 50 cfs daily under this protocol.
CONNECTICUT DEEP’S ROLE IN MANAGING WEST BRANCH FLOWS
Connecticut DEEP controls 3.3 billion gallons of water stored in Colebrook River Lake for the purpose of maintaining sufficient flows in the river for fisheries. A total of 1.63 billion gallons of storage is set aside within Colebrook River Lake for Connecticut DEEP to enhance anadromous brown trout runs and 1.63 billion gallons is set aside for Connecticut DEEP to enhance American shad runs. Connecticut DEEP is responsible for the control of these fishery management pools and the releases are coordinated through the MDC.
U.S. ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS
USACOE manages storage capacity in Colebrook River Lake to provide flood protection to downstream communities during periods of heavy inflow. The Corps oversees all flood control on the Farmington River.
UPPER FARMINGTON RIVER MANAGEMENT PLAN
The Upper Farmington River Management Plan was prepared under the Farmington Wild and Scenic River Study authorized by Congress in 1986. The plan outlines management of a 14 mile section of the West Branch and the Farmington River mainstem in Connecticut extending from immediately below the Goodwin Dam to the downstream end at the New Hartford/Canton town line.
The Study was led by the Farmington River Study Committee which included representatives from the State of Connecticut, the MDC, the Farmington River Watershed Association, the U.S. Department of the Interior and local towns along the Farmington River. The National Park Service serves as the key federal representative in the implementation of the management plan.
One of the key Goals of the Management Plan is to “Balance the legitimate demands on the river for water supply, waste assimilation, energy production, and commercial and industrial uses, while maintaining stream flow and water quality necessary to sustain fisheries, recreation and scenic qualities at levels sufficient for wild and scenic river designation.”
The plan established the Farmington River Coordinating Committee (FRCC) to promote the long-term protection of the upper Farmington River by bringing the key stakeholders together on a regular and ongoing basis. The Metropolitan District is an active participant on the FRCC.