Gov. Dannel Malloy has instructed the state's Water Planning Council to immediately implement the State Water Plan that was submitted to the General Assembly earlier this year.
Malloy signed an executive order June 14 directing the council to act.
The WPC developed the plan, which the General Assembly requested, to balance the needs of the public water supply in relation to economic development, recreation, and the ecology.
State officials and several advisory committees spent nearly three years and $1 million creating the plan in a process that involved input from the public, including a large cross section of water users.
The plan required legislative review and approval, but the General Assembly session ended without lawmakers acting on the plan because many who had participated in its multiyear development objected to the controversial, last-minute insertion of the concept of a "public trust" in water.
Historically, the public trust doctrine defines where private water rights end.
Thus, there was concern that without further deliberation, insertion of the public trust in all waters of the state could be interpreted to mean there are no longer any private rights to any state waters.
"We should all be able to agree that water is a precious resource that should be protected for the public's interest and safeguarded for future generations in the event of emergencies," Malloy said in a statement.
But CBIA senior counsel Eric Brown said Malloy's statement differs from the plan.
"We have no problem with that statement—but that's not what the unadopted plan says," Brown said.
It's unfortunate that the administration sidestepped the legislative process to call for implementation of a flawed State Water Plan.
CBIA successfully opposed the required legislative adoption of the plan with the last-minute addition of the public trust reference.
Legislative Process Sidestepped
"It's unfortunate that the administration had sidestepped the legislative process to call for implementation of a flawed State Water Plan," said Elizabeth Gara, executive director of the Connecticut Water Works Association.
Gara said the late addition to the plan of the public trust language "signals a huge change in our water policy."
"This language could be misapplied by the courts, state agencies, and others to prioritize water uses in a way that would jeopardize the availability of water supplies needed to support economic development, agriculture, and other industries in Connecticut," Gara said.
Connecticut Water Works is a trade association representing municipal, regional, and private water companies throughout the state.
Malloy's executive order also:
- Directs the WPC to coordinate and work with an advisory group established by law to help implement the State Water Plan.
- Orders the WPC to resubmit the State Water Plan to the General Assembly for review and approval by December 1.
The WPC is comprised of representatives four agencies: the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, the Department of Public Health, the Office of Policy and Management, and the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority.
The water plan is the first of its kind in Connecticut.