Once-polluted Nashua River headed for “wild and scenic” designation


GROTON — The nearly decade-long journey to federally protect the Nashua River is another step closer to fruition.

On Thursday, U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas unveiled her final piece of legislation before she retires at the end of her term: the Nashua River Wild & Scenic River Act of 2018.

“This desire to protect this river and to look at ways for the federal government to be engaged in helping to do that for future generations really is because the communities and the individual leaders have made this a priority for many, many years,” Tsongas said before a crowded room of local, state and federal officials at the Nashua River Watershed Association’s River Resource Center. “So as your federal partner, I’ve been happy to do whatever it took to advance that vision.”

Tsongas said the 3rd District is “disparate in every way” — geographically, economically, culturally — but is “united by its rivers.” She said she’s enjoyed drawing attention to this through her annual River Day events.

The bill is the “next stage” in ensuring the protections so many in the district have worked toward, and “it’s been a long time coming,” Tsongas said.

Tsongas co-introduced the bill with New Hampshire U.S. Rep. Ann Kuster. A companion bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate by Massachusetts Sens. Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren and co-sponsored by New Hampshire U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan.

In 2009, the NRWA and its partners began the effort add the river and two of its tributaries, the Squannacook and Nissitissit rivers, to the national Wild & Scenic Rivers System.

Tsongas introduced the legislation to create the Nashua River Wild & Scenic River Study Committee in 2013.

It was approved with bipartisan support in a Republican-controlled Congress in 2014 and signed into law by President Barack Obama, kicking off a three-year study by the National Park Service. This spring, the 11 local communities that participated in the study voted at their respective Town Meetings to endorse the recommendations of the Study Committee.

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