March 25, 2009

Kennedy, Kerry, Frank, McGovern, Whitehouse, Reed, Kennedy Commend Passage of Bill to Protect Taunton River Under The National Park Service’s “Wild & Scenic” Program

Washington, DC – Senators Edward M. Kennedy, John F. Kerry, Sheldon Whitehouse and Jack Reed, and Representatives Barney Frank, James P. McGovern and Patrick J. Kennedy today commended the House of Representatives for the passage of legislation to support the protection and community-based management of Taunton River as part of the Wild & Scenic River system. The legislation passed the Senate in January, and will now be sent to President Obama for his signature.

Senator Kennedy said, “Taunton River is an extraordinary part of our Commonwealth’s heritage and environment, and this national recognition is eminently deserved. The communities along the river watershed have worked hard for this designation, and they deserve great credit for this achievement.”

“The Taunton River’s natural beauty, important ecology and cultural heritage make it one of our state’s most treasured natural resources. It is the longest coastal river in New England without dams, making it a haven for countless species of fish and other wildlife. The communities and associations have done a great job of maintaining and preserving the river over the years and now it will be permanently protected it for future generations,” said Senator Kerry.

“I am very pleased that we have passed this important legislation recognizing the vital natural and recreational aspects of the Taunton River. I appreciate all of the hard work in support of the bill that was provided by the cities and towns along the river, and the non-profit groups and area residents that have been leading advocates for the Wild and Scenic designation. Passage of the bill helps ensure that the river will remain a valuable resource that can be enjoyed by future generations,” said Congressman Frank.

“I’m very pleased that the Taunton River has finally received this designation,” Rep. McGovern said. “This day has been a long time in coming. The communities along the Taunton deserve enormous credit for all of their hard work and advocacy to make this designation a reality.”

“The Taunton River is part of the larger Narragansett and Bristol Bay watersheds and its health directly affects Narragansett Bay and Rhode Island’s precious coastal areas,” said Whitehouse, a member of the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee. “I’m glad that this beautiful stretch of river will finally be protected, as it deserves to be, for people to enjoy long into the future.”

“The Taunton River is Narragansett Bay’s second largest tributary and is vital to the environmental health of the Bay. By securing this “Wild and Scenic” designation we will protect the Taunton River and take steps to improve ecosystems that are critically important to the region,” said Senator Jack Reed (D-RI).

“The Taunton River is a special waterway with historical and environmental significance to our region. This designation will protect this precious natural resource and benefit the connected ecosystems that depend on river. I commend the efforts of the environmental advocates who have worked tirelessly on today’s victory,” said Congressman Kennedy.

The Taunton River is the longest coastal river in New England without dams. It supports 45 species of fish and many species of shellfish, including seven types of freshwater mussels, and its archaeological treasures date back 10,000 years. The watershed is a habitat for 154 species of birds, including 12 rare types. It is also home to the river otter, mink, gray fox, and deer.

The legislation designates as “Wild and Scenic” the Taunton River between the confluence of Town River and Matfield River in Bridgewater to Mount Hope Bay in Fall River. Federal funds available under the designation will help protect the river.

Kennedy and Kerry introduced legislation in 1999 with former Congressman Joe Moakley (D-Mass.) to authorize a study of the Taunton River for consideration for a Wild and Scenic River Designation, and that legislation was signed into law on October 19th, 2000. The Study identified six special values relating to the river: Agriculture; Ecology and Biodiversity; Estuary; Fisheries; History and Archaeology; and Recreation and Scenery.

The Taunton River Stewardship Council will serve as the principal partner of the National Park Service in implementing and overseeing the Wild and Scenic River designation. The Council will have representatives of the towns of Bridgewater, Halifax, Middleborough, Raynham, Berkley, Freetown, Dighton, Somerset, the cities of Taunton and Fall River, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District, the Wildlands Trust of Southeastern Massachusetts, the Natural Resources Trust of Bridgewater, the Taunton River Watershed Alliance, Save the Bay, the Nature Conservancy, and the Council Oak Wampanoags.

The National Park Service will implement its responsibilities for Wild and Scenic River management in consultation and coordination with the Council. All expenditures of any federal appropriations resulting from the designation will be coordinated and reviewed with the Council.


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