Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Home Needs Help...

A little late to action, but important none the less...


"For those of you who are note familiar with this project, here is a brief summary. Also, please feel free to contact me with any questions (

Project Summary:

The developer is Roland Betts, Bush's best friend from their Yale days continuing on to when they were partners with the Texas Rangers. They remain very close. He is the owner of Chelsea Piers in NYC and is a very rare weekender to Canaan, CT. He proposed in 2002 to build an 18-hole world-class golf course on top of a ridgeline in Canaan on a 760 property and to put up 62 homes alongside the course. The property is surrounded by conserved land and a state park (Campbell Falls State Park). The project has come under intense scrutiny and media attention for several reasons (described below) and has been turned down once officially by the DEP once already. The New Yorker, the NYT, Fish & Stream, The NY Post, etc. have all written about it. The course would be ultra-exclusive - invites only to people who can afford the $250,000 or so initiation fee and similar annual fees in operating costs. Few locals would be able to use it and studies show there would be little or no economic benefit to the towns from construction of the course.

The principal concerns are the following:

Water Withdrawals

The developer has chosen a site above 1200 feet, at the absolute top of a watershed. Therefore the only source of water available for the course is groundwater, and that can only be recharged by rain and snow. There are no big rivers feeding the aquifer up there, just a series of small brook trout streams and intermittent streams flowing off of it. The amount of water the developer is proposing to take is constantly in flux - he started with 300,000 gallons per day, and now, following a DEP rejection, has chosen to construct 2 irrigation ponds (with incredibly high evaporation rates) and only pump 150,000 gpd however all year around and not just during the irrigation season. We are concerned about the withdrawals for the temperature and flow impacts they will have on Ginger Creek and Hollow Brook which feed the Whiting River - all of of which are coldwater fisheries. Also, the pumping tests that the developer's team has conducted to determine the impact on streamflows from the groundwater pumping actually indicate a constant decline in the water table - basically an unsustainable situation for the watershed.


In Connecticut, unlike in MA, for instance, developers can "segment" applications. Therefore when Betts realized there was opposition to the housing component, he buried it. He knows that he can come back and do the housing separately once he gets his permits and not necessarily have to go through state or federal review. Therefore the project is not getting the full environmental review it deserves. AG Blumenthal is furious that the DEP is not dealing with the housing issue up front in the water diversion application. Betts has acknowledged in the press that he still plans to build homes - he just will not acknowledge this to the regulators. It can only be assumed that 62 or more 4-bedroom macmansions with large swaths of pristine turf will use upwards of 1,000 gallons of water a day (for lawn watering alone). Combined, this is a tremendous amount of water that deservers DEP review - something it will not get now that Betts has not provided the agency with a complete application.

Conservation Property

The land, in general, is one of the most highly treasured in the state for its conservation value. It is surrounded (literally) by conserved properties and is part of a contiguous 4-state tract of wildlife habitat that is federally recognized as the Highlands Region - valued for its brook trout populations. The streams are all Class A water quality, containing coldwater fish and ultimately feed a WTMW 3 (the Blackberry River).There are a lot of other issues with the property with respect to extensive alteration of wetlands (they have to move around 460,000 cubic tons of soil to construct the course) and destruction of open fields and bird habitat (Audubon is opposed to the project). There was a federally threatened bog turtle on the property spotted several years ago prompting an Endangered Species Act Review by Fish and Wildlife Service and then the Army Corps.

There are about a dozen environmental groups opposing the project along with almost all the locals: (over a 1100 signatures on"


No comments: