Friday, March 4, 2011
Coginchaug Boat Launch Gets Snagged on Bureaucratic Obstacles
The efforts of the Jonah Center for Earth and Art and its project committee, the Coginchaug River Action Group (CRAG), to get a kayak and canoe launch on the Coginchaug River have progressed past slogging through marshland and mud in search of a feasible location, only to be tangled up in agency requirements and snagged in a slow permitting process. Here’s some brief background and a summary of the current status.
The Jonah Center worked with the City to secure a $50,000 grant from the U.S. Dept. of Transportation (DOT) in 2007. The grant works on a reimbursement basis, that is, the City will be reimbursed for funds expended on the project after they are spent. Prior to initiating the project, it must first be “under contract” with the CT Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), which administers the grant for the U.S. DOT. But in order to get the project under contract, the city must first obtain certain permits (required by the DEP and the Army Corps of Engineers), which can only be granted after the city files the detailed engineering plans needed to properly assess the potential environmental impacts of the project. These will cost somewhere between $5,000 and $15,000.
Matt Dodge (Middletown Department of Planning, Conservation and Development staff) has been trying to determine exactly what information each agency is looking for, so we can provide a single set of drawings and avoid the cost, time and delay of customizing plans for each agency recipient. Current snow depth on the site, which is just north of the railroad tracks at the intersection of North Main and Johnson Streets, makes it impossible to perform the wetland flagging that some permits require. Even when these requirements are met, the project may have to get approvals from Middletown land use commissions and the Common Council, and the contract will have to be approved by the CT Attorney General’s office before it is signed by the DEP and the City.
The Jonah Center and CRAG resurrected the launch project last spring, and began working with the City to identify a site and the project scope. The Mayor has declared his support, and we’ve heard public support. We are ready to help with the educational components of the project, organize volunteers to help build the trail, and provide feedback on launch layout. We are also communicating with City and State staff to try to nudge the project along, and are prepared to provide more of a push if necessary.
Stay tuned. Who knows what will be needed to ensure the project’s completion? Whatever it takes, the actual construction of the kayak and canoe launch will be easy and joyful by comparison.