Harbor Management Plan- Chapter One
Online version is NOT official, it is only for use as a reference.
CHAPTER ONE: BACKGROUND INFORMATION FOR THE HARBOR MANAGEMENT PLAN
Chapter One contains background information pertinent to development of the Harbor Management Plan. Included is a description of the Middletown waterfront and Harbor Management Area (HMA) which encompasses the City’s municipal jurisdiction on the Connecticut River and tidal portions of the Mattabesset and Coginchaug rivers. Also included is a review of the uses, activities and environmental conditions found on the waterfront and in the HMA. In addition, the Chapter contains a summary of the numerous agencies and organizations with a role, authority or major interest concerning the waterfront and HMA, and of the principal City, State and Federal laws and regulations affecting waterfront and harbor management issues and planning considerations to be addressed in the Harbor Management Plan.
Chapter One is essentially a summary of information developed through the Harbor Improvement Agency’s Waterfront and Harbor Management Study. The reader is referred to the “Middletown Waterfront and Harbor Management Study, Volume II: Full Report” (January 1998) for a more extensive presentation of background information concerning the Middletown waterfront and HMA.
THE MIDDLETOWN WATERFRONT AND HARBOR MANAGEMENT AREA
Middletown’s waterfront and Harbor Management Area may be described with reference to the City’s maritime heritage, conditions affecting navigation, water and waterfront uses and facilities, environmental conditions and resources and several important planning and development initiatives. (See Chapter One of the “Middletown Waterfront and Harbor Management Study,, Volume II: Full Report.”)
The City of Middletown on the Connecticut River is one of the oldest and most historic communities in Connecticut; the initial settlement was incorporated in 1651. The Connecticut River, often described in the year 2000 as Middletown’s “river of opportunity.” Was a vital resource for the Native Americans who lived along its banks and the European settlers who followed. The River is a prominent them running through any description of the City’s social and economic history, from the first settlement to the present day.
The City was named for its location midway between the early settlements at Hartford and Saybrook; Middletown’s Downtown waterfront is about 30 miles upstream on the Connecticut River from Long Island Sound and about 22 miles downstream from Hartford.
The HMA, which defines the City’s harbor management jurisdiction for the purpose of the Harbor Management Plan, encompasses the City’s municipal jurisdiction on the Connecticut River and tidal portions of the Mattabesset and Coginchaug rivers. The Mattabesset River, also known as the Sebeth River, is a major tributary of the Connecticut River; its center line is the boundary between Middletown and the Town of Cromwell.
In the Connecticut River, Middletown’s municipal jurisdiction extends to the center line of the River: that line also marks the western boundaries of the jurisdictions of the towns of Portland and East Hampton. (Prior to a 1977 Special Act of the State Legislature, Middletown’s Connecticut River jurisdiction in the area generally between Wilcox Island and Bodkin Rock extended completely across the River to the Portland shoreline.) Downstream of the HMA, the municipality adjoining Middletown with jurisdiction on the River is the Town of Haddam.
The Connecticut River – one of the Nation’s greatest and most historic waterways – is the largest river system in New England; it flows 410 miles from its headwaters near the Canadian border to Long Island Sound and provides nearly 70 percent of the Sound’s freshwater input. The River’s watershed encompasses an area of over 11,000 square miles included in four states; the entire watershed has been designated as the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge for the purpose of ecosystem conservation. In 1998, the Connecticut River, along with 13 other U.S. rivers, was designated by the President as an American Heritage River under the Federal American Heritage Rivers Initiative (AHRI) program.
The River is tidally influenced as far north as Windsor Locks, Connecticut, a distance of about 60 miles from Long Island Sound. High slack water at Hartford occurs nearly 3 ½ hours after high tide at the mouth of the River; the mean tidal range at Hartford is 1.1 feet, compared to 2.0 feet at the mouth of the River at Old Saybrook.
North of Middletown, the River is relatively slow-flowing and meandering though the broad floodplains of the Hartford Basin or Central Valley. At the River’s “great bend” at Middletown, the River abruptly veers to the southeast, exiting the Central Valley, crossing a fault line known as the Eastern Border Fault and entering a region known as Connecticut’s Eastern Highlands. The highlands are characterized by hard, crystalline rocks which, downstream of Bodkin Rock, constrict the River, creating a steep-sided valley and the River’s relatively straight path to Long Island Sound. The lower 36 miles of the Connecticut River, from Cromwell to Long Island Sound and including the Middletown HMA, is recognized as containing “Wetlands of International Importance” and is designated by The Nature Conservancy as one of the “40 Last Great Places” in the Hemisphere.
Middletown’s Connecticut River waterfront adjoining the HMA extends for almost nine miles from the Mattabesset River to the City’s boundary with Haddam. At its narrowest, the Connecticut River at Middletown is about 600 feet wide opposite Eastern Drive and in the area known as the Straits near Bodkin Rock; the River’s typical width is about 1,200 to 1,400 feet.
The Mattabesset River, considered a low flow and low gradient river, flows for about 18 miles from its headwaters to the Connecticut River and drains an area of about 44,000 acres. Middletown has over five miles of shoreline along the Mattabesset River. Several smaller tributaries also enter the Connecticut River at Middletown, including Sumner Brook near the Downtown waterfront.
The Middletown waterfront and HMA are used for a variety of recreational and commercial purposes. Visiting and resident boaters, excursion boats, rowers, commercial barges and other vessels all share the Connecticut River’s navigable waterway. The non-boating public also enjoys the River at waterfront areas that provide opportunities for walking, bicycling, picnicking, fishing, quiet enjoyment of water views, special waterfront events and scientific study. In addition, the natural environment of the waterfront and HMA provides vital ecological functions and values that contribute importantly to the quality of life.
In the 1700’s, Middletown was Connecticut’s major seaport with flourishing trade and commerce and sailing ships that linked the City with the West Indies, Europe, Africa and other distant ports. In the mid-1800’s, the waterfront remained a lively place’ with family outings, regular steamship service and frequent stops by professional theater troupes. Urbanization, the advent of the automobile and the demise of water transportation, however, resulted in some profound changes. A significant deterioration of a precious resource was caused by neglect, pollution from upstream factories and erosion of the Riverbanks. Unfortunately, the City during this stage in its history had turned its back on the River and waterfront.
Today, other profound changes, this time of a positive nature, are occurring. Public attention is again directed toward opportunities for community enhancement and development presented by the Connecticut River and waterfront. These positive changes began in the late 1960’s with environmental cleanup efforts and planning for Harborpark – the City’s award-winning linear park which is now a major attraction and hub of activity on the River. A popular restaurant, a docking area for excursion boats, a pedestrian boardwalk, facilities for the Middletown High School and Wesleyan University rowing programs and special events such as the Head of the Connecticut Regatta and Fourth of July fireworks display attract thousands of people to the waterfront and River each year.
At the beginning of the 21st. century there is widespread recognition that the Connecticut River and waterfront comprise Middletown’s most important natural resource. When looking to the future, one cannot help but to recall and recognize the historical importance of the City’s water and waterfront resources. These resources were vital to the historical development of Middletown and will be just as significant with regard to the City’s future.
CONDITIONS AFFECTING NAVIGATION
The opportunities for navigation afforded by the Connecticut River were essential for the historical use and development of Middletown. These opportunities are still vital for recreational and commercial purposes and for the success of the City’s waterfront use and development plans that will encourage and depend on the vitality of the Harbor Management Area.
The City is served by the Connecticut River Federal navigation channel, a Congressionally authorized channel that extends from the mouth of the River at Long Island Sound upstream for approximately 52 miles to Hartford. This channel generally follows the River’s natural channel and was originally authorized in1881 to support waterborne commerce. The authorized channel dimensions are 15 feet deep and 150 feet wide in the Middletown area. The River’s natural channel dimensions, however, are greater in some locations.
The New England District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for maintenance of the Connecticut River channel and has conducted dredging operations to maintain the authorized dimensions in the several designated ”bar channels,” including the “Mouse Island Bar: in the Middletown HMA, where natural depths are not sufficient to support waterborne transportation. The last maintenance dredging operation in the Connecticut River channel was conducted by the Corps in 1992; maintenance dredging in some reaches of the River (outside of the Middletown HMA) is being planned by the Corps in 2000. Federal aids to navigation, including channel buoys and flashing lights, are maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard to mark the Federal channel at Middletown.
In the Mattabesset River, a natural channel with depths of seven to 26 feet at mean lower water is indicated on navigation charts for about one mile upstream from the Connecticut River.
Several bridges over navigable water are of interest with respect to potential impacts on navigation and the HMA. The Arrigoni and railroad bridges across the Connecticut River do not have a significant effect on navigation. The fixed span of the Arrigoni Bridge provides substantial horizontal and vertical clearances (480 and 92 feet, respectively) and the railroad bridge, a swing bridge, is normally kept in an open position and closed only when a train crosses, generally once a day and for a period that does not conflict with the passage of commercial vessels. The Route 9 and railroad bridges over the mouth of the Mattabesset River provide horizontal and vertical clearances of 26 and 19 feet, respectively and do not affect the passage of the small craft suitable for use on the River. The Connecticut Department of Transportation (DOT) is responsible for maintenance of these four bridges across the HMA (day-to-day maintenance of the railroad bridge across the Connecticut River is the responsibility of the Connecticut Central Railroad Company in accordance with a lease agreement with the DOT). Downstream of Middletown, the East Haddam swing bridge on the Connecticut River affects the passage of commercial traffic, including excursion boats, upstream to the Middletown HMA.
Vessel speed in the Connecticut River is controlled by State law. Section 15-121-B15 of the Connecticut General Statutes establishes a steerage speed area between light no. 87 (near the Rushford Center) and a line across the River 500 feet downstream of the Arrigoni Bridge. Section 15-121-B15 also establishes speed limits that apply in other section of the HMA. In addition, Section 15-16 establishes a six mile per hour speed limit for any vessel that is wholly or partly propelled by power “when approaching or passing, and while within 200 feet of any wharf, pier or dock…..in the City of Middletown…”
Two special anchorage areas adjoining the HMA have been designated by the Coast Guard within the Town of Portland’s Connecticut River jurisdiction. Within these areas, designated on navigation charts, moored or anchored vessels less that 65 feet in length are not required to display anchorage lights.
WATER AND WATERFRONT USES AND FACILITIES
Middletown’s Harbor Management Area is today used for a variety of recreational and commercial purposes. Recreational boating is most prominent, replacing the maritime trading and River transportation activities of long ago. Cruising boats and open runabouts share the Connecticut River at Middletown, joined by town sculls, excursion boats, personal watercraft, canoes, kayaks and other craft. The City’s Police and Fire boats, the Middletown Harbormaster’s boat, Coast Guard vessels and marine patrol vessels of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) also operated in the HMA. In addition, barges carrying fuel oil and other materials to Middletown facilities and upstream terminals use the Connecticut River Federal navigation channel at Middletown. Special water and waterfront events such as the annual Head of the Connecticut Regatta, Fourth of July fireworks display, and July 2000 visit of the Sailing ship Amistad add to the vitality of the waterfront and HMA.
Waterfront conditions, including the type and condition of waterfront development and land use, have an important influence on the HMA. The quality and availability of land-based boating support facilities, for example, affect recreational boating activities; waterfront development and the use of City-owned land influence public access to the HMA; and waterfront conditions can have an impact on the environmental quality (including scenic and water quality) that makes use of the HMA enjoyable.
The most prominent public waterfront facility at Middletown is Harborpark at the edge of the City’s Downtown central business district. Dedicated in 1979, the park provides important opportunities for public access to the Connecticut River, including opportunities for fishing from the shoreline, picnicking, boating, and walking along the waterfront boardwalk to enjoy views of the River and enjoyment of special events. Waterfront dining at the Harborpark Restaurant, operated privately in accordance with a lease agreement with the City, also brings people to the park, including visiting boaters who tie up at the restaurant’s floating docks. An estimated 100 boats may visit the restaurant docks during a summer weekend.
Regularly scheduled and chartered boat trips aboard the excursion vessel Aunt Polly have been another park attraction. The Coast Guard and commercial tugboat operators occasionally tie up their vessels at Harborpark during their Connecticut River operations. In addition, the Wesleyan University and Middletown High School rowing programs are based at Harborpark; these ongoing programs help provide a distinguishing identity for the City’s waterfront and HMA. A rowing program for the general public is operated by the City’s Parks and Recreation Department (responsible for maintenance of Harborpark facilities) during the summer months but this program is currently not as well-developed as the University and High School programs.
Rowing activities are central to the annual Head of the Connecticut Regatta, the principal special event on the City’s waterfront and HMA. The regatta celebrates the City’s connection to the Connecticut River and was hosted by the City for the 25th. consecutive year in 1999. Organized by the nonprofit Head of the Connecticut Regatta, Inc. and sponsored by local businesses, organizations and volunteers, the regatta is second only to Boston’s Head of the Charles Regatta ads New England’s premier autumn rowing event. In recent regattas, as many as 600 rowing shells have been entered and participants and spectators have been estimated at 3,000 and over 5,000 respectively.
Improvements. To the waterfront area known as Columbus Point at Harborpark were completed and dedicated in 1997. This public space adjoining Sumner Brook extends Harborpark to the south and provides additional opportunity for passive recreation, including enjoyment of River views. City acquisition and improvement of the Columbus Point property is the result of the efforts of the City, Wesleyan University and Northeast Utilities working together as the Connecticut River Trust over a number of years with assistance from the Connecticut DEP.
In 1999 the City acquired the former Peterson Oil property – a key waterfront site on the Connecticut River immediately south of Sumner Brook that will further expand the City’s public waterfront. Just south of the former Peterson Oil property is the Middletown wastewater treatment plant which also adjoins the Connecticut River.
Connecticut Route 9, which forms a physical and visual barrier between the Downtown and Harborpark, is a distinguishing feature of the Middletown waterfront. The Route 9 underpass at Union Street leads to Harbor Road and is the principal route for vehicular access to Harborpark. Pedestrians may walk to Harborpark through the underpass or through the pedestrian tunnel under DeKoven Drive and Route 9 near the Municipal Building. The pedestrian tunnel is considered an underutilized structure because os its appearance, location and unfavorable perceptions associated with walking in a relatively dark and enclosed space.
There are no commercial boating support facilities on the Middletown shoreline. Facilities supporting recreational boating are currently limited to the rowing ramp (also used by the Police and Fire departments for launching their inflatable boats) and the floating docks at the Harborpark Restaurant. These floating docks in the Connecticut River adjacent to the Harborpark bulkhead provide about 250 linear feet of dock space. The docks are managed by the restaurant lessee for the use of restaurant patrons according to the lessee’s lease agreement with the City. That agreement also specifies that the lessee must keep the docks in good repair. In accordance with the State permit issued to the lessee for placement of the docks, use of the docks is to be fore short-term use by restaurant patrons.
There is currently no public boat launching facility for trailered boats on the Middletown shoreline. Hand-carried vessels such as canoes and kayaks, however are launched at several locations. Until 1977, a small boat launching facility was operated by the State of Connecticut in the area now known as the north cove at Harborpark. Discussed below, the lack of an improved launching area for trailered recreational and emergency vessels is an important harbor management concern. The nearest State-operated launching ramp is south of the HMA at the Haddam Meadows State Park in Haddam. In 2000, the Middletown Police and Fire Departments have obtained the State and Federal permits needed to construct an emergency services boat docking facility at the former Peterson Oil property; funds are now being sought for construction.
Several recreational boating facilities operate on the Portland side of the River, adjoining the HMA. These include the private Meriden Motor Boat Club which maintains moorings in the special anchorage area just downstream from the railroad bridge and the Riverside Marina, Yankee Boatyard Marina and Portland Boat Works. The three commercial marinas provide a total of about 150 boat slips and maintain moorings in the special anchorage area near the Mouse Island Bar. The Yankee Boatyard Marina and Portland Boat Works also have launching ramps for their customers; the Portland Boat Works ramp is used by the Middletown Fire and Police departments to launch their trailered vessels. Other boating facilities, including Petzold’s Marine Center, are found on the Portland side of the River upstream of the HMA. Downstream and adjoining the HMA, Cobalt Marine, a small marina with about 20 slips, operates in East Haddam.
In addition to the recreational craft and excursion vessels using the HMA, tug-assisted and some self-propelled barges carrying fuel oil and other materials to facilities at Middletown and upstream terminals regularly travel through the HMA. Shipments of petroleum products account for most of the waterborne commerce on the Connecticut River; barges deliver fuel to the terminal facilities of the Pratt and Whitney plant and Middletown Generating Station. The Connecticut River Pilot’s Association reports that barges pass the Middletown waterfront three or four times a day, with perhaps 25 to 30 round trips each month compared to the 60 or so round trips remembered from past years. (This report was provided prior to the closing of the Peterson Oil Company terminal which only accounted for about three or four barge shipments a year.)
Barges passing the Middletown waterfront carry oil, gasoline and coal to the Hartford area and asphalt barges to the Chevron terminal at Portland. The Pratt and Whitney plant unloads about six barge shipments a year, including jet fuel to test the engines manufactured at the plant and fuel oil. The Pratt and Whitney pier is reportedly the longest pier structure on the Connecticut River. In recent years, up to two barge deliveries of fuel oil per day have been unloaded at the Middletown Generating Station’s terminal facility to power the generating station. The Pilot’s Association describes one of the barges serving the generating station as the largest currently traveling the River. This vessel is 220 feet long and 60 feet wide and carries up to one million gallons of fuel for delivery.
In addition to the public and private water-dependent facilities described above, several other waterfront uses and facilities also help to characterize the Middletown waterfront and HMA.
A railroad line follows the west bank of the Connecticut River from Old Saybrook to Middletown and north to Hartford. The Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection owns the line from Old Saybrook to the vicinity of the Pratt and Whitney plant and leases the track to the Valley Railroad Company which operates the Essex Steam Train and Riverboat attraction between Essex and Chester. North of Chester to the Pratt and Whitney Plant the tracks are currently not serviceable although the Valley Railroad Company possesses a charter authorizing the company to operate passenger service between Old Saybrook and Hartford. North of the Pratt and Whitney plant, through Middletown to the north and to Portland via the railroad bridge across the Connecticut River, the railroad right-of-way is owned by the Connecticut Department of Transportation. The DOT leases the track to the Connecticut Central Railroad Company which carries freight on the line as well as sewage sludge from the Middletown wastewater treatment plant to the Mattabesset District wastewater treatment facility in Cromwell.
In addition to the wastewater treatment plant, other City of Middletown public works facilities on the waterfront include the closed landfill adjoining the Mattabesset River and the River Road well field and water treatment plant. Also, in accordance with a cooperative agreement involving Middletown, the Connecticut DEP and Corps of Engineers, the City has responsibilities for maintaining the River Road emergency streambank protection project constructed by the Corps of Engineers.
City-owned open space includes Wilcox Island upstream of the Arrigoni Bridge and the River Road open space area (sometimes referred to as the “chicken farm” property) of about 130 acres obtained from the State of Connecticut in 1996. Other waterfront properties owned by the City include land just north of the River Road well field, next to State-owned land that is part of the Connecticut Valley Hospital property. This site is known as the Riverbank lot; in accordance with an agreement between the City and the State Department of Mental Health, the City may use the State-owned portion of the site for recreational purposes. To the south of the well field, opposite the Rushford Center, the City owns a small site including an unimproved parking area adjoining the Connecticut River. Conceptual plans for public boat launching development have been prepared for both of these sites.
Other waterfront open space includes the Cromwell Meadows State Wildlife Area adjoining the Mattabesset River, Dart Island State Park and Hurd State Park on the East Hampton side of the Connecticut River. The Cromwell Meadows State Wildlife Area is managed by the Connecticut DEP’s Bureau of Natural Resources and encompasses freshwater-tidal wetlands of much ecological significance (see the following section on Environmental Conditions and Resources). A portion of the Wildlife Area is within the boundaries of the City of Middletown. Dart Island State Park is essentially a sand bar in the Connecticut River between the Middletown Generating Station and Pratt and Whitney plant. It is a State Park in name only; it is considered undevelopable by the DEP’s State Parks Division which has no plans for active use or management of this property. Hurd State Park adjoins the east bank of the River in the Town of East Haddam opposite the southernmost part of the HMA; there are no facilities for boating access at this park which affords views of the River.
Several underutilized sites of interest also exist on or near the waterfront. These include: 1) the Remington Rand building and site which adjoins the Mattabesset River and the City’s closed landfill to the north of the Downtown area; 2) the Walnut Street/River Road property neat the wastewater treatment plant; 3) the Eastern Drive/River Road property also neat the wastewater treatment plant; and 4) Northeast Utilities’ undeveloped Connecticut River properties encompassing over 1,000 acres near the Middletown Generating Station. Future development of these properties could have significant long-term impacts on the character of the waterfront and HMA. The Walnut Street/River Road and Eastern Drive/River Road properties are located within an area of approximately 85 acres bounded by Route 9, Eastern Drive and the Connecticut River. This area, which also includes the former Peterson Oil property and the City’s wastewater treatment plant site, is known as the City’s Riverfront Development Opportunity Area and is the subject of special planning attention by City agencies in 2000. (See the later section on Planning and Development Initiatives affecting the Waterfront and Harbor Management Area).
Also of interest is the former feldspar mining area on the west side of the Connecticut River at Middletown where past mining operations and more recent commercial activities have caused substantial deforestation and other adverse impacts visible from the River.
ENVIRONMENTAL CONDITIONS AND RESOURCES
Prominent environmental conditions and resources of the waterfront and Harbor Management Area can be described with respect to surface and ground water resources and quality, wetlands and fish and wildlife habitat, scenic quality and the ongoing natural processes of flooding and shoreline erosion. The natural resources of the Connecticut, Mattabesset and Coginchaug rivers provide a variety of irreplaceable ecological functions and values in addition to important cultural (historic, educational and scientific) values.
The quality of surface water in the HMA has a profound impact on the overall quality of life as well as waterfront land use and just about every water use. In recent years there have been a number of accomplishments with regard to understanding and improving water quality conditions in the Connecticut, Mattabesset and Coginchaug rivers, including improvement of the City’s wastewater collection system to eliminate combined sewer overflows and establishment of the monitoring and educational efforts of the Mattabesset River Watershed Pollution Management Program, Mattabesset River Watershed Association and Connecticut River Watch Program. Nevertheless, pollution and the risk of pollution still exist. Bacteria and other pollutants can affect the enjoyment of boating activities, the vitality of fish and wildlife and the health of those who come in contact with the water. Simply stated, pollution in the HMA diminishes the City’s quality of life and should be of concern to everyone.
Water quality in the HMA is classified by the State of Connecticut in accordance with State water quality criteria. The Connecticut River throughout much of Middletown’s jurisdiction is classified as SC/SB; the Mattabesset River is C/B. Class SC/CB,, a classification applied to coastal and marine surface waters, is a relatively poor classification signifying that due to point or non-point sources of pollution (see below), certain water quality criteria or one or more designated uses assigned to Class SB waters are not met. The existing classification is SC; the goal is to reduce the sources of pollution as necessary to achieve Class SB criteria and attainment of Class SB designated uses. Designated uses of Class SB waters are “marine fish, shellfish and wildlife habitat, shellfish harvesting for transfer to a depuration plant or relay to approved areas for purification prior to human consumption, recreation, industrial and other legitimate uses including navigation.” Class C/B, an inland surface water classification, is also a relatively poor classification. It indicates that the Mattabesset River does not meet water quality criteria or one or more designated uses due to pollution. The existing classification is C; the goal is to reduce sources of pollution as necessary to attain a B classification. Designated uses of Class B waters are “recreational use; fish and wildlife habitat; agricultural and industrial supply and other legitimate uses including navigation.” The Connecticut River Watch Program has reported that swimming and other primary contact recreation on and in the Mattabesset River poses a health risk and that elevated levels of bacteria are found in the Connecticut River, particularly after heavy rainfall.
Sources of pollution in the HMA are categorized as “point” and “non-point” sources. Potential point sources at Middletown are easily identified and include discharges from storm drains that empty into the HMA, as well as treated wastewater discharges from the City’s wastewater treatment plant and the sewage treatment facilities at the Pratt and Whitney plant and Connecticut Valley Hospital. Three other wastewater treatment plants discharge into the Connecticut River near the HMA. These are the Mattabesset District’s facility at Cromwell, and the Town of Portland and Town of East Hampton facilities. Treated industrial wastewater is also discharged at the Pratt and Whitney plant and Middletown Generating Station. These treated wastewater discharges are regulated and monitored in accordance with permits issued by the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection. The threat of fuel spills from recreational and commercial vessels is also present in the HMA.
Other potential point sources of pollution include discharges of treated and untreated sewage from vessel holding tanks. (The discharge of untreated sewage from vessel holding tanks is illegal under State and Federal law). The extent to which these discharges contribute to water quality problems has not been determined, but there is concern whenever a large number of boats are docked, moored in, or otherwise use a confined waterway such as the Connecticut River.
Unlike point sources of pollutants, “non-point” pollution does not originate from a specific identifiable source and because of its nonspecific nature, is more difficult to regulate and control. Types of non-point pollution include storm-water runoff from roads, parking lots and backyards. As precipitation runs off pavement and land to the nearest catch basin or waterway draining to the HMA, it gathers oil, bacteria, sediment and other substances that eventually enter the water. Runoff from commercial/industrial sites near the waterfront and from the closed City landfill is a potential concern. Other types of non-point pollutants include trash and debris improperly discarded and floating on the water. In addition, contaminants such as lead paint chips and metal shavings can be associated with repair and maintenance operations on the four bridges that cross the HMA.
The drainage area of the Connecticut River encompasses over 11,000 square miles. Needless to say, actions that take place far from Middletown’s jurisdiction can contribute to pollution in the HMA. However, just as the actions of all communities and individuals within the Connecticut River watershed can affect the quality of water in the River, so too can the actions of all those communities and individuals contribute to maintenance and improvement of water quality.
In addition to concerns regarding protection of surface water quality, protection of groundwater resources at Middletown is also of interest. The aquifer recharge area for the City’s River Road well field includes a substantial portion of the waterfront and HMA and is mapped by the City’s Water and Sewer Department in accordance with the State’s Aquifer Protection Area Program.
Wetland resources in and adjoining the HMA are of particular ecological significance. Noted above, the lower Connecticut River from Cromwell to Long Island Sound, including the HMA, is recognized as containing “Wetlands of International Importance” and is designated by The Nature Conservancy as one of the “40 Last Great Places” in the Hemisphere; the entire Connecticut River watershed is included in the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge. Within this vast ecological system, individual wetland units and shallow water riverine habitats are all linked by the tidal waters of the Connecticut River. The freshwater-tidal wetlands of the Round and Boggy Meadows (Cromwell Meadows) adjoining the Mattabesset River are considered especially valuable, along with wetlands at Wilcox Island and along Middletown’s Connecticut River shoreline downstream of the Pratt and Whitney plant. The ecological functions and beneficial values of wetlands, once poorly understood or not appreciated, have been the subject of much attention and study in recent years. As a result, their biological productivity and values related to fish and wildlife habitat, water quality and floodwater storage are generally well recognized, along with their recreational, scientific, educational and scenic values.
The Connecticut River has the most diverse fish populations of any New England river system and supports important recreational and commercial fisheries. In the lower reaches of the River there is good fishing there is good fishing for largemouth bass, panfish, northern pike, catfish, ell, carp, white perch, and sometimes striped bass. The Fisheries Division of the Connecticut DEP, in coordination with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is involved with restoration, management, regulation and research concerning several important fish species and populations in the Connecticut River. For example, DEP programs are directed toward enhancing existing populations of American shad and restoring Atlantic salmon in accordance with the goals of the Connecticut River Atlantic Salmon Commission of which the State of Connecticut is a member. The sad population is the second larges in North America; commercial fishing for shad occurs on the River from April to June. The DEP is also working to restore anadromous herring populations and is conducting research concerning the Atlantic sturgeon. All of these species are of interest at Middletown.
The scenic quality associated with the Connecticut, Mattabesset and Coginchaug rivers is among the most important of City resources. Downtown revitalization efforts and efforts to attract visitors to the City will depend in part on maintaining and enhancing waterfront scenic quality and River views that can be affected by waterfront use and development as well as the deterioration or lack of maintenance of properties on and near the waterfront.
Flooding and shoreline erosion are natural, ongoing processes that will continue to affect water and waterfront use and development at Middletown. There is need for continued attention to these processes and to application of appropriate measures to mitigate their impacts. Considerable sections of the Middletown waterfront, including Harborpark and portions of Route 9 and River Road, are identified as flood hazard areas on the City’s Flood Insurance Rate Map. These and other waterfront areas are subject to riverine flooding during a “200-year” flood event (and more frequent events) and fall within the designated “A-Zone” which identifies areas potentially subject to “still water” flooding from a flood that has a 1% chance of occurring each year. Some of these areas are also within the designated “floodways” of the Connecticut and Mattabesset rivers. Harborpark has been subject to significant Connecticut River flooding, particularly during high flow periods in the springtime, requiring substantial clean up efforts to remove debris from parking and landscaped areas and the boardwalk.
Water levels on the Connecticut River in the HMA follow distinct seasonal patterns. Highwater extremes occur in the spring in response to snowmelt; low flow conditions occur during late summer and early autumn. There may be two distinct high water periods in the spring. The first is characterized by a relatively small rise in water level and increased discharge volume caused by runoff from melting snow in the more immediate upstream parts of the drainage basin. This is generally followed by significantly higher water levels associated with the melting of heavier snowfall amounts in the northernmost parts of the watershed. River water levels are also subject to periodic quick rises caused by short-term precipitation events.
PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT INITIATIVES AFFECTING THE WATERFRONT AND HARBOR MANAGEMENT AREA
The Middletown waterfront and Harbor Management Area, the subject of increasing public attention in recent years, is now the focus of a number of planning and development initiatives that may be expected to have a major effect on waterfront character and use of the water in the future. In 2000, several inter-related City planning initiatives are underway, including projects to expand Harborpark and improve public access to the River. The sum total of these plans and proposals is described as Middletown’s Back to the Riverfront Revitalization Program which is now being pursued through the coordinated efforts of all City agencies with an interest in the waterfront and HMA.
The most prominent of the City’s recent and ongoing planning and development initiatives affecting the waterfront and HMA, including the work of the Harbor Improvement Agency, are summarized below.
Planning and development initiatives by other Connecticut River towns may also affect the future use and condition of the Middletown waterfront and HMA. The success of Hartford’s “Riverfront Recapture” projects, for example, as well as tourism initiatives downstream on the Connecticut River, will enhance opportunities for development of rail and tour boat linkages between Middletown, Hartford and the downstream towns including Essex and Deep River. Waterfront projects in the towns with jurisdiction adjoining the HMA are of particular interest; issues concerning water quality, navigation, special events, channel dredging and the American Heritage Rivers Initiative are of common interest. In addition, waterfront projects in the adjoining towns may affect use and conditions in the Middletown HMA. Portland and Cromwell, for example, are currently proceeding with plans to provide town boat launching facilities on the Connecticut River; these facilities will increase the existing opportunities for access to the River.
CURRENT ROLES AND AUTHORITIES FOR WATERFRONT AND HARBOR MANAGEMENT
A number of commissions, departments and agencies at the local, state and Federal levels have authorities and responsibilities pertaining to waterfront and harbor management and the Middletown Harbor Management Area. (See Chapter Two of the “Middletown Waterfront and Harbor Management Study, Volume II: Full Report”). The Mayor, Common Council and Harbor Improvement Agency, for example, have important City authorities and responsibilities. On the State and Federal levels, the Connecticut Department of Transportation, Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Coast Guard are four agencies with important harbor management-related authorities. On the regional level, the Midstate Regional Planning Agency provides assistance to the City that may be applied for waterfront and harbor management purposes. All of these governmental entities will likely have continuing roles that affect the waterfront and HMA; an understanding of their current authorities and responsibilities is therefore necessary when considering opportunities for the most effective management of waterfront and harbor resources in the future. In addition, the general public and waterfront property owners have important water-related rights to use the HMA and there are a number of private organizations with harbor management interests.
CITY AGENCIES AND AUTHORITIES
In addition to the Mayor, Common Council and Harbor Improvement Agency, City agencies with responsibilities affecting the waterfront and HMA include the Planning and Zoning Commission, Department of Planning, Conservation and Development, Public Works Department, Parks and Recreation Department, Water and Sewer Department, Department of Health, Police Department, Fire Department, South Fire district, Conservation Commission, Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Agency and Board of Education. The City of Middletown Charter and the City’s Code of General Ordinances establish the powers, duties and regulations that guide the functions and operation of City government. Section 26-12 of the Code of Ordinances, for example, establishes the Harbor Improvement Agency and the duties of the Agency to initiate and implement plans, specifications and estimates for full development and beautification of the waterfront. Section 26-12 also authorizes the Harbor Improvement Agency to function as the City’s Harbor Management Commission and to carry out all of the powers and duties granted to a municipal harbor management commission by the State Legislature, including preparation of the City’s Harbor Management Plan. Chapter 18 of the Middletown Code establishes regulations for the use of City parks, including Harborpark and the use of boats and City docks.
Other City regulations and plans also apply to the waterfront and HMA. For example, the City’s Zoning Code includes important provisions affecting the development of waterfront land; the “Riverfront Recreation,” “Industrial Redevelopment Area,” and “Special Industrial” zoning districts have particular significance with regard to future use and development of the waterfront. Also, the Zoning Ordinance contains important regulations for the protection of water sources (aquifers and watershed areas) and for the identification of flood hazard areas and the control of development within flood hazard areas.
The Middletown Plan of Conservation and Development includes the City’s major policies for land use and future development. The “Downtown Visions 2000 and Beyond” plan, incorporated into the Plan of Conservation and Development, establishes a conceptual development plan for the Downtown area with provisions for enhancement of the Connecticut River waterfront and linkage between the Downtown and River.
In 1999, the Mayor established a Select Committee on Riverfront Development consisting of representatives of City agencies and the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce. A principal charge of this committee is advise the Mayor and Common Council on matters pertaining to the Waterfront Development Opportunity Area and to help ensure the coordination needed to achieve the most beneficial use and development of that area.
STATE AGENCIES AND AUTHORITIES
On the State level, a number of laws, regulations and programs affect waterfront and harbor management at Middletown. The principal legislation of interest includes the Connecticut Harbor Management Act of 1984 (P.A. 84-287; Sections 22a-113k through 22a-113t of the Connecticut General Statutes). This Act enables municipalities to establish harbor management commissions (or designate any existing board, commission, or agency as a harbor management commission) and develop harbor management plans consistent with State laws and guidelines. The intent of the Harbor Management Act is, in important part, to increase the authority and control of local governments over matters pertaining to the use and condition of their harbors. In 2000, 16 Connecticut municipalities are implementing State-approved and locally adopted harbor management plans; and at lease five other municipalities, including Middletown, are preparing harbor management plans. In accordance with Section 22a-113m of the Connecticut General Statutes, any harbor management plan proposed by a municipality must be submitted to the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection and Department of Transportation for approval by the commissioners of environmental protection and transportation before the plan is adopted by the municipality.
There are also important State laws and regulations concerning boating safety and the operation of vessels on the Connecticut River. Section 15-121-B15 of the Connecticut General Statutes, for example, establishes the steerage speed area at Middletown between light no 87 (near the Rushford Center) and a line across the River 500 feet downstream from the Arrigoni Bridge. Numerous other State laws and regulations are implemented by State agencies and officials with roles and responsibilities pertaining to waterfront and harbor management at Middletown. The most prominent agencies are various units of the DEP and DOT, including the Office of Long Island Sound Programs, Bureau of Water Management, Bureau of Natural Resources, Bureau of Outdoor Recreation, Bureau of Waste Management in the DEP, the Bureau of Aviation and Ports, Bureau of Policy and Planning and the Bureau of Engineering and Highway Operations in the DOT. All proposed work involving filling, dredging or placement of structures in wetlands or navigable waters in the Middletown Harbor Management Area is subject to State regulatory programs administered by the DEP.
In addition, the Middletown Harbormaster, responsible for the general care and supervision of the navigable waters within the jurisdiction of the City of Middletown, is appointed by the Governor, derives his authority from the Connecticut General Statutes and is subject to the direction and control of the State’s Commissioner of Transportation. Principal duties of the State’s harbormasters are established in Sections 15-1 through 15-9 of the Connecticut General Statutes. Harbormasters are empowered to enforce the provisions of the General Statutes concerning removal of abandoned and derelict vessels, including Section 15-11a and Section 15-140c. In accordance with Section 15-154 of the Connecticut General Statutes, harbormasters are also empowered to enforce State boating laws within their jurisdictions.
There are several sources of State funds, including funds available through the Long Island Sound License Plate Program and River Restoration Grant Program, potentially available to the City of Middletown for waterfront improvement and harbor management projects.
FEDERAL AGENCIES AND AUTHORITIES
Federal agencies with important responsibilities and authorities pertaining to waterfront and harbor management at Middletown include the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In accordance with Section 22a-113m of the Connecticut General Statutes, any harbor management plan proposed by a municipality must be submitted to the Corps of Engineers for review and comments before the plan is approved and adopted. The Corps of Engineers is responsible for maintaining the Connecticut River Federal navigation channel. In addition, all proposed work involving filling, dredging, or placement of structures in wetlands or navigable waters in the Middletown Harbor Management Area is subject to Federal regulatory programs administered by the Corps.
Several other Federal agencies also have some relevant responsibilities and authorities. In addition, the Federal American Heritage Rivers Initiative and Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge are of special interest with respect to waterfront and harbor management at Middletown. There are several sources of Federal funds, including funds available through the Federal Transportation Equity Act for the 21st. Century and Clean Vessel Act, potentially available to the City of Middletown for waterfront improvement projects.
GENERAL PUBLIC, WATERFRONT PROPERTY OWNERS AND PRIVATE ORGANIZATIONS
The general public, waterfront property owners, and private organizations have important water-related rights and also carry out activities in and affecting the Harbor Management Area. Consistent with the Public Trust Doctrine, individuals and groups do not own underwater land or land subject to the ebb and flood of the tide. The State of Connecticut owns the submerged land and open tidal water in the Connecticut and Mattabesset rivers waterward of the mean high water line. These resources are held by the State in trust for the benefit of all residents of the State.
In accordance with the Public Trust Doctrine, the public has the right to use the land and water waterward of the mean high water mark and has important rights of navigation on the Connecticut and Mattabesset rivers. In general, navigational rights take precedence over other in-water rights; boaters have the right of free navigation (generally interpreted to including fishing) subject to lawfully enacted restrictions.
Waterfront property owners, including the City of Middletown and the private owners of prominent waterfront facilities such as the Pratt and Whitney plant and Middletown Generating Station also have important rights in the HMA. Certain rights – referred to as riparian rights – are inherent in the ownership of land bordering navigable water. One of the more important of these rights is the right of access to navigable water. The Connecticut courts have held that the owner of upland property adjacent to navigable water has “certain exclusive yet qualified rights and privileges: in the adjoining submerged land, including the exclusive right to build piers from the upland to reach dept water (often referred to as “wharfing out”), as long as the piers do not interfere with free navigation and are acceptable under other regulatory statutes, such as those that protect wetlands. Also, the riparian owner cannot exercise the right to build out from the shore in a manner that interferes with the riparian rights of abutting property owners. Where a wharf or pier is to be constructed in a navigable water of the United States, a permit from the Corps of Engineers must first be obtained, as well as a permit from the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection.
Several private groups and organizations also have important interests concerning use of the Middletown waterfront and HMA and protection of the environmental quality associated with the waterfront and HMA. These groups and organizations include, but are not limited to, Wesleyan University, Mattabesset River Watershed Association, Connecticut River Watershed Council, Inc., The Nature Conservancy, Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce, Connecticut Forest and Park Association, Rockfall Foundation, Connecticut Greenways Council, Connecticut River Valley and Shoreline Visitors’ Council, Connecticut River Pilots’ Association, Connecticut Central Railroad Company, Valley Railroad Company and Deep River Navigation Company.
WATERFRONT AND HARBOR MANAGEMENT ISSUES AND PLANNING CONSIDERATIONS
A number of issues and planning considerations may be discussed with respect to use and management of the Middletown waterfront and Harbor Management Area. (See Chapter Three of the “Middletown Waterfront and Harbor Management Study, volume II: Full Report”). Some of these issues and considerations have been identified by the Harbor Improvement Agency in the course of its work over the years to enhance the City’s waterfront for the benefit of the public; others were raised by City, State and Federal officials and by other persons interviewed for the purpose of conducting the Waterfront and Harbor Management Study and preparing the Harbor Management Plan.
Some of the issues an considerations represent immediate problems and require prompt attention; others may be of more significance in the future or require long-term approaches to their resolution. All may be addressed through implementation of City goals, policies and other provisions established in the Harbor Management Plan.
For discussion purposes, the issue and considerations of interest have been grouped into five categories related to: 1) public health, safety and welfare; 2) environmental quality and resources; 3) the institutional framework for waterfront and harbor management; 4) water use and navigation; and 5) waterfront development, access and land use.
It must be recognized that there are strong inter-relationships among the categories, as well as among the issues and considerations within each category. Public safety considerations, for example, are of interest with respect to water use and navigation; management coordination is needed to achieve beneficial waterfront use and development; waterfront development can influence water uses and public access opportunities; and environmental quality, which helps make Middletown a desirable place for waterfront and water activities, can be adversely impacted by those activities.
Some issues have received particular attention as described below.
PUBLIC HEALTH, SAFETY AND WELFARE ISSUES
A priority concern is the lack of a City boat launching facility to accommodate trailered emergency vessels. While inflatable boats may be launched from the rowing ramp at Harborpark, that ramp is currently not suitable for use by larger, trailered vessels. As a result, the trailered vessels of the Middletown Police and Fire departments must be launched from a commercial marina ramp on the Portland side of the River. The time required to transport the Police and Fire boats over the Arrigoni Bridge to that ramp adds substantially to emergency response time. Planned development of a boat docking facility for use by the Middletown Police and Fire departments on the former Peterson Oil property would help to address this issue during the boating season when emergency services vessels may be kept in the water. Construction of this facility is currently awaiting funding.
Identified public safety concerns in and near the Harbor Management Area point to the need for effective boating and other public safety regulations. No regulations, however, can be effective without adequate enforcement. The principal regulations controlling boating use in the HMA are the State boating regulations. The ability of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection’s Law Enforcement Division to patrol the HMA, however, is limited, so the main responsibility for enforcement of the State regulations and any City boating regulations that may be enacted rests with the Police Department’s Marine Patrol, acting in coordination with other law enforcement agencies.
ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY AND RESOURCES ISSUES
One of the most basic harbor management issues concerns the need to achieve and maintain balance between goals for conservation of environmental quality and goals for beneficial water and waterfront use and development. The natural environment of the Connecticut and Mattabesset rivers provides vital ecological functions and the opportunity for water and waterfront uses that provide important economic and social benefits. Natural resources and environmental quality, however, may be damaged by those same uses. As a result, the importance of understanding and applying the concept of environmental carrying capacity becomes particularly significant when making decisions affecting the waterfront and Harbor Management Area. When considering the carrying capacity of the waterfront and HMA for waterfront development, boating and other water uses, consideration must be given to the cumulative impacts that can result from individually minor but collectively significant actions taking place over a period of time.
Other environmental quality issues concern: maintenance and improvement of surface water quality, including reduction of sources of non-point source pollution (e.g., pollution caused by stormwater runoff from roads, parking lots and other surfaces that drain into the HMA); aquifer protection; conservation of wetland resources and fish and wildlife habitat; and protection of scenic quality, water views and cultural values related to the water. The degradation of Sumner Brook’s riparian ecosystem caused by sedimentation, runoff adjoining commercial area, and accumulation of trash and other debris along the stream banks is of priority concern because of the proximity of the Brook to Harborpark and the Union Street/Route 9 underpass that provides vehicle access to Harborpark. In addition, flooding and shoreline erosion are natural ongoing processes that will continue to affect water and waterfront use and development at Middletown. There is need for continued attention to these processes and to application of appropriate measures to mitigate their impacts. Shoreline erosion has been of particular concern along River Road. The River Road emergency riverbank protection project was constructed by the Corps of Engineers to protect the road from continuing erosion. Downstream, the shoreline adjoining the River Road well field is unprotected and actively eroding although erosion has not progressed to the point that well field structures are threatened. The rate of shoreline erosion at this location is currently unknown.
“INSTITUTIONAL FRAMEWORK” ISSUES
Principal “institutional” issues affecting the waterfront and Harbor Management Area concern the need to strengthen the City’s existing authority for harbor management; issues of funding and coordination are also of interest. Prior to the Harbor Improvement Agency being provided with the authority to act as the City’s Harbor Management Commission, the City’s authority to address a number of important concerns in the HMA was limited. All tidal waters, submerged lands and inter-tidal areas are held in trust by the State of Connecticut for the benefit of the general public. Just about everything that takes place below the high tide line in the Connecticut, Mattabesset and Coginchaug rivers was subject primarily to the control and jurisdiction of the State and Federal government, acting primarily through the Department of Environmental Protection and Corps of Engineers, respectively. The City has been able to provide comments with respect to State and Federal decisions that affect waterfront development, environmental resources and the boating and other activities that take place in the HMA. Prior to the City’s Harbor Management Plan, however, there was no formal basis for an expanded City role, relative to State and Federal authorities, in the planning, management and regulation of in-water and waterfront activities. An important aim of the Connecticut Harbor Management Act is to create that expanded role, but only for municipalities that choose to establish harbor management commissions and prepare harbor management plans.
Some beneficial actions for waterfront improvement and harbor management will require additional public and/or private expenditures should the City choose to pursue those actions. Improved maintenance and enhancement of Harborpark, development of public boat launching opportunities and improvement of pedestrian and vehicle access to the waterfront are several examples of possible harbor management actions that will cost money. There is currently no dedicated funding mechanism to cover the costs of such activities that may be pursued in the future. Potential sources of funds for waterfront improvements and harbor management, including capital budget allocations and State, Federal and private grants are limited; pursuit of these funds will require demonstration of public need and benefit. Commitment and dedication will be needed to pursue available grants in competition with other municipalities.
With regard to management coordination, the accomplishment of City goals for beneficial use of the waterfront and HMA will require that all of the City commissions and departments with relevant responsibilities carry out those responsibilities in the most coordinated manner. Coordination with State and Federal authorities, other Connecticut River municipalities and the Harbormaster is also necessary. While the Middletown Harbormaster is responsible for the general care and supervision of the navigable waters within the City’s jurisdiction, in the past there has been no requirement for the Harbormaster to work closely with or coordinate his activities with the Harbor Improvement Agency or other City agencies.
WATER USE AND NAVIGATION ISSUES
Water use and navigation issues include concerns regarding the need for maintaining adequate dimensions in the Connecticut River Federal navigation channel ensure continuation of the existing economic advantages of waterborne transportation, including transportation to the Pratt and Whitney and Middletown Generating Station terminal facilities. Maintenance dredging outside of the Federal channel may also be necessary from time to time to provide for the continued viability of waterfront terminals at Middletown. In addition, nonfederal dredging may be needed to provide public boat launching facilities in the Harbor Management Area. All nonfederal dredging must be carried out in accordance with permits issued by the Corps of Engineers and Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection to minimize environmental impacts. As with Federal dredging, a significant consideration affecting nonfederal dredging projects concerns the availability of suitable sites for dredged material disposal.
Another water use and navigation issue of interest is the potential for congestion and conflicts among different types and mixes of vessels using the Connecticut River channel and other water areas in the HMA. Potential conflicts between recreational and commercial vessels are of concern and so are potential conflicts among different recreational activities, including power boating and non-motorized water uses such as rowing. At Middletown, water use congestion and conflicts have been of concern primarily during holiday weekends. Some visiting boaters waiting to tie up at the Harborpark docks to patronize the Harborpark Restaurant have been observed anchored or idling in the Connecticut River channel, creating a potential conflict with commercial vessels. Another concern is that excessive “rafting” of boats side to side at the restaurant docks during peak time may interfere with use of the channel. Some conflicts between rowing activities and recreational vessels also have been reported. There is an ongoing need to address and avoid potential water use conflicts so that visiting and resident boaters, rowers, fishermen, excursion vessels and commercial vessels may safely share the Connecticut River’s navigable waterway. There is also an ongoing need to avoid any unauthorized encroachments into navigable water, including structures or other work placed or undertaken without necessary local, State, or Federal approvals and to avoid and any obstructions in the normally used Connecticut River channel.
WATERFRONT DEVELOPMENT, ACCESS AND LAND USE ISSUES
A number of waterfront development, access and land use issues and considerations affecting the waterfront and Harbor Management Area have been identified. Economic considerations are inherent in most all of these issues and considerations and are important for any discussion of water and waterfront uses, opportunities and management recommendations. Economic considerations may be discussed in terms of: 1) the economic impacts of water and waterfront uses; and 2) the values of water and waterfront resources.
Economic impacts are measured as revenues or expenditures; in other words, the amount of money that changes hands. Restaurant revenues and expenditures by excursion boat patrons are examples of economic impact. Although there is a lack of information concerning the amount of economic impacts and benefits associated with water and waterfront activities at Middletown, expenditures by waterfront visitors, including visitors attracted by special water and waterfront events such as the Head of the Connecticut Regatta, generate economic activity in the City and are considered to have a positive impact on the local economy.
Economic impacts of water and waterfront uses, measured solely in terms of the amount of money that changes hands, are not true measures of the economic value of the water and waterfront resources at Middletown. The natural resources and environmental quality of the Connecticut, Mattabesset and Coginchaug rivers have important economic values that are much more difficult to quantify than economic impacts. For example, tourism potential, opportunities for water and waterfront recreation and opportunities for water-enhance development depend in large part on the natural quality of the Connecticut River and shoreline. In addition, the natural resources of the Connecticut, Mattabesset and Coginchaug rivers provide ecological functions related to flood control, fish and wildlife habitat and water quality functions. These ecological functions also have an economic value; economists now refer to these values as “natural capital” or ecosystem services.”
There are some important issue to be addressed as the City pursues the opportunities for economic development and Downtown revitalization presented by the water and waterfront. When pursuing opportunities for water-enhanced economic development and revitalization, the importance of achieving and maintaining a balance between goals for waterfront use and development and goals for conservation of environmental quality must be recognized.
Achievement of the City’s goals for economic development and Downtown revitalization may depend, in large part, on provision of enjoyable opportunities for public access to the waterfront and HMA. That access may be discussed in terms of physical and visual access, including access to the waters of the Connecticut, Mattabesset and Coginchaug rivers for boating and fishing, and use of waterfront parks, trails and other areas for walking, biking, picnicking and enjoyment of water views. When considering opportunities for public access, it is important to consider opportunities for both the boating and non-boating public.
Efforts to enhance existing public access opportunities and provide additional opportunities are affected by a number of considerations, including the location of Route 9 between the Downtown and Connecticut River, lack of public facilities for boat launching access, maintenance of waterfront areas and facilities, availability of waterfront parking space and other considerations.
Route 9 forms a substantial physical and visual barrier between Downtown Middletown and the Connecticut River, restricting access to Harborpark and the River by pedestrians and vehicles. As a result, there is no direct connection between the Downtown and the River that was so vital to the historical development of the City. Today, as attention is again focused on the opportunities for community enhancement and economic development presented by the River and waterfront, accomplishment of City goals for that enhancement and development will depend, in large part, on reconnection of Downtown with the River.
Currently, vehicle access to Harborpark is via the Route 9 underpass at Union Street to Harbor Road. The underpass lacks aesthetic quality and does not serve as an attractive or welcoming gateway to the waterfront. Pedestrians may walk to Harborpark through the underpass or through the pedestrian tunnel under DeKoven Drive and Route 9. The tunnel, however, is an underutilized structure because of its appearance, location and the unfavorable perceptions that may be associated with walking in a relatively dark and enclosed space. Opportunity for construction of an elevated structure to enable pedestrians to walk over DeKoven Drive, Route 9 and the railroad tracks to Harborpark has been discussed. Issues of cost, esthetics, handicapped access, maintaining adequate clearance over the railroad tracks and Route 9 and other issues must be addressed. Addressing these issues and reconnecting the Downtown with the River will necessarily require a long-term process and commitment. Also required is establishment of communication between the City and Connecticut Department of Transportation concerning the DOT’s long-range planning for transportation improvements and the effects of those plans on the City’s goals for reclaiming the waterfront.
Another priority water access issue concerns the lack of a public boat launching facility for trailered boats on the Middletown shoreline. The lack of boat launching access is of concern for recreational boaters and is also a major issue (noted above) affecting emergency access to the River by the Police and Fire departments. Several studies commissioned by the City have looked into the opportunities for developing a boat launching facility and several potential sites have been reviewed. While some preliminary development plans have been prepared, none have been implemented. In addition to lack of a boat launching facility for trailered boats, there is a lack of improved facilities for launching non-motorized, hand-carried vessels such as canoes and kayaks. Potential sites for boat launching are limited, however, and there are constraints associated with development of each of those sites. A number of issues must be addressed prior to provision of a boat launching facility, including issues of cost, site availability, development in the floodplain, aquifer protection, possible dredging and other issues that could affect obtaining permits from the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection and Corps of Engineers.
Community revitalization efforts and efforts to attract visitors to the waterfront will also depend in large part on maintaining and enhancing waterfront scenic quality which can be affected by in-water and waterfront activities and by deterioration and lack of maintenance of waterfront sites and facilities. Ongoing, effective maintenance of public waterfront areas and facilities, including Harborpark, is needed to provide a clean, attractive waterfront and enjoyable public spaces. As Harborpark is the cornerstone of the City’s efforts to reclaim the waterfront, sufficient resources must be allocated for timely and effective park maintenance, including repair of bulkheads as needed, mobbing of grassy areas, painting of structure and other maintenance operations.
Parking area for those who wish to use and enjoy the waterfront and HMA is limited. Parking spaces at Harborpark must be shared by patrons of the Harborpark Restaurant, excursion boat patrons, persons participating in the Wesleyan University and Middletown High School rowing programs, and others, including those who wish to walk along the boardwalk or otherwise enjoy the park and water views. Overflow parking from the restaurant occurs along Harbor Road at times and there is concern that overflow parking may interfere with access to the site by emergency vehicles. Limited parking spaces for park users who are not visiting the restaurant and for excursion boat patrons is also of concern. While substantial parking area is available in Downtown municipal lots, the lack of a direct pedestrian connection and negative perceptions concerning the pedestrian tunnel affect the use of those lots by Harborpark visitors.
Development or redevelopment of several key waterfront sites could have significant long-term impacts on the future use and character of the waterfront and HMA. These include the former Peterson Oil property, the City’s wastewater treatment plant site and currently underutilized sites on and near the waterfront, including sites in the Riverfront Development Opportunity Area. While these properties provide opportunities for development projects that may advance the City’s goals for beneficial use of the waterfront and HMA, new development also raises the possibility of adverse environmental and other impacts that should be avoided.
Other waterfront development, access and land use consideration have been raised with respect to: the future use of the State-owned railroad line that follows the western shore of the Connecticut River and provides an opportunity for waterfront tourism linkage between Middletown and other Connecticut River locations; the need for management plans to guide public use of waterfront open space area such as Wilcox Island and the River Road (“chicken farm”) parcel; and planning for development of an interconnected system of water and waterfront trails for canoeists, kayakers, walkers and cyclists linking the City with other Connecticut River towns.
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