The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act was passed by Congress in 1968 in response to widespread damming of some of America’s most spectacular rivers. The Act protects a designated river’s free flow, among other things. The undammed sections of three Massachusetts rivers have been designated by Congress as National Wild and Scenic Rivers because of their ‘outstandingly remarkable’ resources. The Sudbury, Assabet and Concord Rivers (considered one river system), Taunton, and Westfield have each been designated, and the Nashua River is currently being studied for inclusion in the system.
The Wild and Scenic River System is a federal program that recognizes and helps to protect the conditons that make these rivers so special. Each of these rivers is a ‘partnership river,’ meaning that Wild and Scenic program management is shared in partnership with state, local and non-profit entities. At the time of designation, each river was assigned a committee comprised of these partner groups that reviews projects, develops education and outreach programs, and supports monitoring.
While the designation itself provides some impetus to care for the river, the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act also affords some added statutory protection for these rivers from any federal project that could harm the river’s free flow or other “resource values.” Federal projects are those that require a federal permit, federal funding, or are carried out by a federal agency. These commonly include bridge construction or rehabilitation that affects the river banks, requires dredging or otherwise requires a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers (CWA Section 404 permit), wastewater treatment plant permits, NEPA reviews, and cell tower placements that require FCC approvals.
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