Some Vt. towns to vote on river designation - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Some Vt. towns to vote on river designation

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The upper Missisquoi and Trout rivers wind through northern Vermont farmlands, forests and towns.

Jacques Couture is a farmer in Westfield, who has spent practically his whole life by the river.

"The river has been a part of our life forever. When I heard about this study I saw all the pros and cons, and boy, there weren't many cons but there were a lot of pros," Couture said. "I think it's a great idea."

The study was approved by Congress in 2009 when a group of Vermont volunteers proposed the Upper Missisquoi and Trout rivers be designated as a Wild and Scenic River. Federal dollars were allocated for the study.

"We are at the end of a three-year study that has been done by community-appointed representatives from the area the Upper Missisquoi flows through," Couture said.

Those local committee reps say things like covered bridges, water quality and wildlife make the rivers perfect candidates.

The committee will now present their study at town meetings in the 10 communities that make up the river coverage area. They also have a video presentation explaining what the designation would mean.

Shana Stewart Deeds is the study coordinator. She says there are two big benefits for communities if the rivers are designated as Wild and Scenic.

"One is annual federal funds to work on river-related projects; the community can use the money how they see fit. The other is a local Wild and Scenic advisory committee that is locally appointed by select board members and allows community input into river decision-making," Deeds said.

In 2010, $170,000 in federal funds was given to each of the 166 designated Wild and Scenic rivers. That amount can change from year to year.

This designation would cover the river only, not any of the land beside it. The committee also says it would have no impact on hunting or fishing.

"This does not establish a national park. It is not the goal of the committee to establish federal ownership or management of lands and it does not create a unilateral buffer along the river. It allows local decision input into federal projects and we feel that is really important," Deeds said.

If most of the towns vote yes, the study committee would petition Vermont's Congressional delegation to introduce a bill to amend the national Wild and Scenic Act to include the two  rivers. Then it's up to Congress to approve the move, which could take a couple of years.

Click here to read the study and see the informational video.

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