Congresswoman Niki Tsongas today announced that she has re-introduced legislation to help designate the Nashua River as a Wild & Scenic River. She made the announcement following a meeting with river enthusiasts who represent OARS, a non-profit organization whose mission is to protect, preserve, and enhance the natural and recreational features of area rivers, their tributaries and watersheds, and to increase public awareness of the rivers' values as important natural resources. This Wild & Scenic River classification would help preserve and protect this historic waterway while making it eligible to receive federal funding for further conservation efforts.
"The rivers in our Third District have served us well for centuries, powering the mills of the industrial revolution, creating tremendous recreational opportunities, and bringing natural beauty to our daily life," said Congresswoman Niki Tsongas. "They have helped to shape our history, culture, and economy for generations and it is up to us to ensure they are enjoyed for generations to come. To that end, I introduced this important legislation last year and it was passed by the Natural Resources Committee in November with support from both Democrats and Republicans. Unfortunately, it was not brought to a vote by the full House of Representatives before the 112th Congress adjourned. I have reintroduced the legislation in the 113th Congress and will work with my colleagues from both parties to make sure our natural treasures like the Nashua, are supported and protected. I have been given every confidence that the bill will be quickly approved by the Committee again this year and have every expectation it will also be approved by the full House of Representatives."
"This important legislation recognizes the great role that the Nashua River has played in contributing to our region and will help to keep the River clean, vibrant, and easily accessible. Thanks to the work of Marion Stoddart and the Nashua River Watershed Association, the Nashua has undergone a tremendous recovery and its designation as a Wild & Scenic River would enable additional preservation efforts while allowing this natural treasure to be enjoyed for many years to come," Tsongas added.
Tsongas' legislation would authorize the National Park Service (NPS) to conduct a study on the Nashua River and two of its tributaries, the Squannacook and Nissitissit Rivers, to determine their eligibility for designation as Wild & Scenic Rivers. During the study process the NPS would work with state and local governments, conservation groups, and concerned residents to develop a conservation plan for the river in order to protect water quality and conserve open spaces. Should the study favorably determine the Nashua River's eligibility as a Wild & Scenic River, legislation to officially designate the river and implement the conservation plan would then be introduced in order to clean up polluted waters around the river, keep drinking water supplies clean, and protect the river for a variety of uses.
"The Nashua River Watershed Association is heartened by Congresswoman Tsongas's resolve to continue working with her colleagues to protect important natural resources, and the Association is thrilled that the Nashua River Wild and Scenic River Study Act is being reintroduced at the start of this legislative session," said Elizabeth Ainsley Campbell, Executive Director of the Nashua River Watershed Association. "Passage of this legislation will provide a significant opportunity for stakeholders to come together with the National Park Service to develop a locally-driven River Management Plan for these unique stretches of river that are so central to our communities."
The bill, H.R. 412, entitled the Nashua River Wild and Scenic River Study Act, has been endorsed by all eight towns through which the Nashua runs in Massachusetts: Lancaster, Harvard, Shirley, Ayer, Groton, Dunstable, Townsend and Pepperell. If approved, the Nashua would join the Concord, Sudbury, and Assabet as rivers in the Third District that have been designated as Wild & Scenic. The Nashua is considered a strong candidate for this designation because the river previously ranked among the nation's most polluted, and while significant progress has been made in cleaning up the river, threats to water quality from polluted runoff and biological diversity are still present. A 4.8 mile segment in Pepperell would be excluded from the study because of an existing hydro project that FERC is in the midst of permitting.
Tsongas is a member of the Natural Resources Committee in the House of Representatives and has worked to preserve and protect the rivers and waterways in the Third Congressional District. She hosts an annual "River Day' to highlight the importance of the Rivers in the communities she represents and to recognize the organizations, volunteers and different levels of government working together to sustain and preserve the integrity of these resources.