Friday, May 21, 2010

The Council on Environmental Quality issued its 2010 annual report, Environmental Quality in Connecticut. The report evaluates the state of the environment, reflecting on a variety of indicators. This is the second year that the annual report is paperless and available online. The conclusion for the Inland Wetlands Page is stark:

Cities and towns have permitted destruction of fewer wetland acres most years since 2000. However, that trend reversed in 2008.

The report notes in word and by bar graph that the number of wetlands acres disturbed in the state has dropped significantly from the early 1990s (between 450-475 acres/year) to 2006-2007 (less than 100 acres/year). Starting in 2008 and continuing in 2009 slightly more than 100 acres were disturbed in the state, with 2009 exceeding 2008. The increased disturbance coincides with the economic downtown which seems more responsible for fewer applications being filed around the state.

The report also tracks the number of wetlands acres created -- while noting it does not evaluate the success of the wetlands created. That bar graph looks more like a roller coaster: a small spike in 1991 of over 100 acres created, retreating for most of the 1990s to less than 100 acres created, with 2000, 2004 and 2008 showing significant spikes to close to 200. In 2009 the number of wetlands acres created dropped to below 100.

The report determined that wetlands agencies have been approving less disturbance per wetlands application, approximately 0.02 acres per permit since 2004.

The report continues to point out that many wetlands agencies fail to comply with the only training requirement in the wetlands statute: one trained agency member or staff. There is a link to CEQ's special report issued in October 2008 Swamped, that documented 37 non-complying wetlands agencies. This is unfinished business. I will return to this topic in future posts.

As an appointed member to the Council on Environmental Quality, I know the quality of the annual report is a direct reflection of the terrific work of the executive director, Karl Wagener, and CEQ staff, Peter Hearn. Thanks, Karl and Peter.

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