A non-profit organization has filed a violation complaint with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission against FirstLight Connecticut Housatonic. American Whitewater is asking for fast track processing and motion to intervene. The complaint alleges that due to actions taken by FirstLight, the public has been denied access to Housatonic River for recreational boating, specifically whitewater boating opportunity in the bypassed natural river channel at Bulls Bridge.
American Whitewater says the actions were taken deliberately and without sufficient justification in violation of the project License.
FirstLight says the decision to close access points was consistent with recommendations issued by the Connecticut Department of Public Health, to minimize the potential exposure of FirstLight’s workforce, FirstLight contractors, and the general public to COVID-19. The notice did not specify a duration for the recreation facility and access closures.
Litchfield County currently has a COVID-19 positive rate that is well below the statewide average in Connecticut. Recreation access at some of FirstLight's facilities in Massachusetts have been restored.
In the complaint filed with FERC, American Whitewater claims that FirstLight’s closures are principally motivated by a request from the towns of Kent and New Milford to prevent an influx of recreation users from outside the towns. The group claims that comments on a local social media group suggesting that those who are recreating need to “speak English” and “we live in the United States of America” clearly demonstrate racial animus by some. The town of Kent is 96% white and the town of New Milford is 92% white.
The complaint also says that problems of overcrowding and/or resource degradation did not begin with the pandemic, rather there has been a longstanding concern regarding trash and the large number of users at the recreation facilities. They did acknowledge that these problems have been exacerbated this year.