Earlier today, the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands held a hearing on H.R. 5319, legislation introduced by Congresswoman Niki Tsongas which 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. A YouTube clip of Congresswoman Tsongas' statement in support of the bill at today's hearing can be viewed below.
In her statement Tsongas said, "This study will allow the National Park Service, the Nashua River Watershed Association, and local governments and stakeholders to work together in forming a plan to protect the Nashua River and ensure that it remains a great place for canoeing, fishing, and enjoying the outdoors."
Also testifying on behalf of the legislation was Elizabeth Ainsley Campbell, Executive Director of the Nashua River Watershed Association. Campbell said "We appreciate this opportunity to speak in favor of HR 5319 and to affirm the outstanding resource values of these special rivers. This legislation, which has strong local and state support, will help advance the protection of the entire river system."
The bill, 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, Pepperell, and Townsend.
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.
Tsongas is a member of the Natural Resources Committee and has worked to preserve and protect the rivers and waterways in the Fifth 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.
H.R. 5319 will likely be debated by the full House Natural Resources Committee in the coming weeks which must clear the way for the measure to be voted on by the full House of Representatives.