Office of Policy & Management’s Decision Allows Negotiations to Begin with Connecticut Water Co.
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Stephanie Reitz, University of Connecticut
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STORRS, Conn. – The Connecticut Office of Policy and Management has approved a plan in which the Connecticut Water Co. will provide water to help supplement the supply of the University of Connecticut and part of Mansfield.
OPM, which analyzes the viability and ramifications of important public policy proposals, issued its approval this month in a memo notifying UConn that its Environmental Impact Evaluation (EIE) satisfies the state’s Environmental Policy Act requirements.
The approval completes the critical first step of the process, allowing the parties to negotiate a binding contract over the next several months and start the discussions about necessary permits with the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
UConn’s Board of Trustees last month endorsed Connecticut Water Co. as the University’s preferred alternative among three options reviewed to supplement long-term water needs of the campus and Storrs area.
The CWC’s approach envisions extending its water supply southward to UConn by building a five-mile pipeline from Tolland to Storrs. The EIE calls for the CWC to provide up to 2.2 million gallons of water daily if needed, supplementing UConn’s supply and supporting long-term growth on campus and in the Storrs area of Mansfield.
“From the beginning of this process, UConn has been committed to identifying a water solution that would be both environmentally sound and fiscally responsible,” says UConn Associate Vice President Thomas Callahan.
“We’re gratified that OPM was satisfied with the EIE and look forward to working with all of the parties to reach a contract agreement and start the permit-seeking process,” he says.
Officials say the reviews conducted under the EIE concluded the CWC option was the most environmentally sound and least costly option among the three options reviewed and can be executed the most quickly.
“The EIE that the consulting team produced is comprehensive and informative, and will prove extremely useful to the university and the town as they proceed with the next steps in the water supply project,” says Matthew W. Hart, Mansfield’s town manager.
The five-mile pipeline proposed from Tolland to Storrs is the shortest among those evaluated, is the most consistent with the State Plan of Development and Conservation, and provides the best opportunity to mitigate unwanted development along the route.
Connecticut Water also has said it will pay the $21 million in capital costs necessary to extend the pipeline and other improvements, whereas the other two options would have required UConn to provide tens of millions of dollars to fund that work.
CWC would charge only for the water that UConn takes without requiring the University to enter into a “take or pay” contract, which would have charged for a contracted amount whether it was used or not.
Although its water rates would require state regulators’ approval, CWC expects to maintain rates at their current level for off-campus customers currently on UConn’s water system; and charging 60 percent of its State-Owned Infrastructure rate to UConn, similar to an arrangement it has at Bradley International Airport.
CWC can phase in the improvements, and anticipates being able to provide water as soon as 18 months after receiving all necessary permits.
Conservation efforts, public awareness and other initiatives – such as the newly opened water reclamation plant — have helped UConn save significant amounts of water. Water use on campus is actually lower now than it was a decade ago – despite the area’s growth in population and infrastructure.
“Conservation efforts UConn has made to date have enabled the university to rely on much more limited water sources and have garnered national attention … The state looks forward to UConn’s continued innovations in water conservation practices and technologies,” Benjamin Barnes, secretary of the OPM, says in his memo notifying UConn of the approval of the EIE.
To read the OPM’s memo, visit: http://s.uconn.edu/1uc
To read the entire EIE document and supporting materials, visit: http://s.uconn.edu/1ud