41 miles of the Housatonic River have been designated as "wild and scenic" under a bill signed by Governor Malloy on Tuesday. The bill gives the designation to a northern section of the Housatonic River from the Massachusetts border to Boardman Bridge in New Milford. The area from the Massachusetts border to New Milford's Boardman Bridge will be preserve according to the federal Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.
Under the bill, the Northwest Hills Council of Governments (NHCOG) acts as the administering agency for the river on behalf of the Housatonic River Commission (HRC). It must do so according to terms set out in a memorandum of agreement between the NHCOG, HRC, National Park Service, Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, and Housatonic Valley Association, Inc. For this purpose, the bill makes NHCOG a political subdivision of the state.
The bill requires the governor to apply to the U.S. secretary of the Interior to complete the river's designation as a wild and scenic river. Rivers designated by the secretary are included in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.
The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act protects free-flowing rivers with important scenic, natural, recreational, historic, cultural, or similar values.
Lastly, the bill specifies that the wild and scenic river designation will not affect authorized agricultural activity along the river as long as the activity does not need a federal Army Corps of Engineers permit. These permits are required when conducting certain activity in navigable waters and other areas such as wetlands.