An attempt to include the lower Taunton River as part of a federal Wild and Scenic designation is moving forward in the U.S. House of Representatives.
An attempt to include the lower Taunton River as part of a federal Wild and Scenic designation is moving forward in the House of Representatives.
The House Natural Resources Committee met in an open markup session Wednesday morning and voted to send a favorable report to the full House of Representatives that the lower Taunton River be included with the originally proposed upper section of the river in receiving approval as a component of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers.
The bill to include the Taunton River in the federal designation is sponsored by U.S. Reps. Barney Frank and James McGovern in the House. U.S. Sens. Edward Kennedy and John Kerry have shepherded a similar version through their ranks.
McGovern Wednesday praised committee members for approving the amendments that would include the lower section of the river from the Braga Bridge to the Muddy Cove area in Somerset.
“I’m very pleased that the House Resources Committee has approved this important legislation,” McGovern said. “I have been contacted by hundreds of constituents asking that the lower Taunton River be protected for future generations. The Department of the Interior recommended this designation, and I look forward to working with Rep. Frank and my other colleagues as this legislation moves through the process.”
During Wednesday’s hearing, the legislation was promoted by U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Arizona, who pushed the natural aspects of the Taunton River. He also noted the river’s tie-in with the proposed Weaver’s Cove Energy proposal to construct a liquefied natural gas terminal along the banks of the river.
Referencing the decision of the U.S. Coast Guard to not approve the project based on concerns over the safety of transporting LNG through Mount Hope Bay and into the river, Grijalva said, “These decisions prohibit Weaver’s Cove proposal from moving forward and have nothing to do with the Wild and Scenic act.”
Weaver’s Cove Energy officials had no comment on the hearing outcome.
Grijalva argued the 40-mile stretch of river meets the qualifications of the designation based upon its free flow and research value.
The Taunton River is the longest coastal river in New England without dams and supports 45 species of fish and many species of shellfish. The watershed is the habitat for 154 types of birds, including 12 rare types. It is also home to otter, mink, grey fox and deer.
The proposed designation moved forward despite objections of U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, who objected the lower section does not meet guidelines for the act.
“This is one of the worst abuses of the Wild and Scenic act ever presented to this committee,” Bishop said.
The Republican senator went on to call the lower section of the waterway “a business river” and said the move to designate it is nothing more than an “effort to stop energy production.”
Bishop also argued the lower section is not scenic or wild, holding a photo of a graffiti marked wall adjacent to the river in an attempt to prove his point.
E-mail Will Richmond at firstname.lastname@example.org.