Calls to Action: Protecting and Improving Our Mystic

The Mystic River Watershed Association policy committee, which is led by co-chairs, Tracy Olson and Nathan Sanders, serves to monitor, comment on and mobilize actions on policies and local developments.

Most notably the all-volunteer group played an important role in sending Governor Baker’s bill H. 2777—which proposed giving the MASS Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) sole jurisdiction over NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) permits—back to the Joint Committee on the Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture for further study. This means that, at least for this legislative season, NPDES permits will continue to be jointly controlled by both MASS DEP and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. As you know, the Mystic River Watershed Association and Mass Rivers Alliance strongly oppose authorizing the Commonwealth to take over NPDES, due to the inadequacy and instability of MASS DEP’s proposed funding and its lack of capacity to take on this kind of major new program.

“Thank you to everyone who responded to our call to action and reached out to the committee members telling them you support clean water,” said co-chair Sanders. “Please consider calling members of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture again to thank them for their leadership on this important issue.”

Beyond NPDES, at the statewide level, the committee is:

  • Pushing for an improved Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) notification bill (S. 448/H. 2935) in conjunction with the the Merrimack River Watershed Council, and the offices of sponsors Sen. Jehlen and Rep. Provost. 
  • Working toward passage of the Public Lands Preservation Act (S. 2181), which will add transparency to the sale of parkland and codify the existing no-net-loss of public lands policy.
  • Advocating for Healthy Soils (H. 3713) which promotes the use of regenerative agriculture, leading to improving carbon sequestration and producing healthier crops and benefits for streams and rivers. 
  • Supporting the Environmental Justice (EJ) Act (S. 426, H. 2913), which promotes environmental justice and eliminate disparities with respect to exposure to environmental toxins.  This bill is especially important in the Mystic River watershed, which has several EJ communities. 

All of these state bills have reported out of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture and are under consideration now in Ways & Means.

In addition to this statewide action, the committee is encouraging plastic bag bans at the municipal level—that will keep litter out of our waterways.

If you are interested in joining the policy committee, it generally meets the first Tuesday of every month. Just check out our calendar for the time, date and location. And as always—look for future “calls to action” where you can make your voices heard and ensure strong protective policies.