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DEP Commissioner Laurie Burt

Laurie Burt

Commissioner, Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)

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canoeing photo - housatonic river

On Tuesday, October 19th, I joined DFG Commissioner Mary Griffin and other colleagues and friends to canoe nearly 5 miles of the Housatonic River, from Fred Garner Park to the Decker boat ramp. The purpose of the trip was to get a first-hand look at the treasure we aim to save.

I have canoed rivers and lakes since I was a child, and I had forgotten how strong the currents can be in the fall, as in the spring after heavy rains. Logs and branches and sandbars put us all on alert to navigate the channel with care – it was great fun. I was reminded how dynamic and changing a natural river is.

The wildlife, even on this chilly autumn day, was abundant. The river, river banks and flood plain of this reach of the Housatonic River are rich in rare and endangered species ranging from mussels and amphibians to dragonflies and plants. On our trip we saw kingfishers, mallards and wood ducks, a great blue heron, a killdeer probing a mudflat and numerous beaver slides coming down the banks. Hawks soared in close circles, searching for morning prey.

The Housatonic is a prize to the Commonwealth, and to New England, a resource we cherish for its recreational value, its complex ecosystem and the value it lends our environment – a place where wildlife can thrive, where plants can grow, where people can work and play. Canoeing the river brought me closer than ever to the river.

After I canoed the river, I attended a listening session convened by Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Ian Bowles to hear ideas and concerns about addressing PCB contamination in portions of the river. This administration feels strongly about finding a solution to the PCB contamination of the Housatonic, and we are working with our partners to find the best solution we can, listening hard to those who want to rid the river of PCBs completely as well as those who call for preservation of the rich ecosystem that exists there today.

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