The Saugatuck River WATERSHED includes some of the most beautiful land in the Sound’s watershed. But even here, where more than 15,000 acres of land are protected forest—the largest protected forest block in southwest Connecticut—streams and tributaries are showing signs of degraded water quality.
Instead of accepting declining water quality, the 11 communities of the Saugatuck River Watershed decided in 2006 to work together to manage environmental threats such as loss of riparian buffers, poorly maintained septic systems, and lawn chemicals and fertilizer being carried into streams as polluted runoff. In April 2006 they signed the Saugatuck River Watershed Conservation Compact, declaring their intention to confront issues damaging the water resources of the watershed and working to “ensure the long-term environmental health and vitality of the watershed.”
The compact was drafted by the Saugatuck River Watershed Partnership (SRWP), which was organized in 2005 by The Nature Conservancy to develop a regional approach to protect and preserve the watershed. As part of its collaborative strategy, the Partnership is also reaching out to state and federal agencies, and other environmental groups. For example, the Partnership is collaborating with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, Save the Sound, American Rivers, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Restore America’s Estuaries to improve fish passage on the Saugatuck River and study alternatives to dam removal on an upper watershed tributary.
LISS has supported SRWP through the Sound Futures Fund, which awarded a $25,000 grant to The Nature Conservancy in 2005 to support planning workshops and development of SRWP, and awarded a $46,000 grant in 2006 to provide support for projects such as a multi-town workshop on erosion and sediment control. SRWP also receives funds from Nature Conservancy donors and from municipalities within the watershed.