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ERT Program Needs Our Help

On March 26, 2009, in Uncategorized, by dgroberg
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A request for help from our friends at the ERT program. They certainly were a huge help to our organization and the town of Cheshire, and we need your help to ensure that this service is around for the future.


From: connecticutert@aol.com [mailto:connecticutert@aol.com
Sent: Thursday, March 26, 2009 2:42 PM
To: Stoner, Kimberly
Subject: ERT Funding

Dear Kim and Friends of Boulder Knoll Farm:

As a recent recipient of an ERT report (Boulder Knoll Farm) –

I am writing today to ask you and/or members of the Planning/Zoning/Wetland Commissions to please write to key legislators concerning the continued secure funding for the ERT Program. The Governor’s proposed budget placed our funding at risk by shuffling the fees from the land use applications to the general fund and then back to DEP with no specifics on allocations to the ERT or the Conservation Districts and the Council on Soil and Water (they also receive funding from these monies).

We are asking for no increase in fees or funding. We are asking for either a separate line item in DEP’s budget or a continuation of the land use fee going directly to the Environmental Quality Fund for our three organizations.

A letter, e-mail and/or phone call to the chairs of the Appropriations Committee and to your local legislator would be much appreciated emphasizing our assistance to your community.

I have attached our position paper and an overview of the ERT, Conservation District’s and Council’s programs and our funding. There is a link on our web site (www.ctert.org) to the Appropriations Committee members.

It is imperative that the legislators receive your letters prior to April 16th.

I’d like to thank you in advance for your support and would appreciate receiving acknowledgement of a letter sent or a call made on our behalf

Elaine A. Sych
ERT Coordinator
CT ERT Program
PO Box 70
Haddam, CT 06438
(860) 345-3977
www.ctert.org

State of Connecticut

Council on Soil and Water Conservation

24 Ingham Hill Road   ~ Essex, Connecticut  06426 ~ 860.767.9594 (Phone/Fax) ~ ct.cswc@att.net

______________________________________________________________________________

Maintain Funding for Conservations Districts, Council on Soil and Water and

Environmental Review Teams ~ revised March 25, 2009

We respectfully ask you to maintain stable funding (most probably through a separate line item) for CT Conservation Districts, the Council on Soil and Water (Council), and Environmental Review Teams (ERT).

The problem/ Governor Rell’s budget proposal placed Conservation Districts’, Council on Soil and Water Conservation and ERT funding at risk; under the Governor’s plan, funding from the land use application fee would be shuffled to the general fund and then back to DEP in an Other Expenses (“OE”) line item with no specifics on allocations to these groups.  Maintaining funds from a massive general line item is unlikely considering imminent changes in future DEP administration and staff.  Conservation Districts, Council and ERT do not have state employees and are not housed within DEP; they are regional and statewide groups that provide environmental and technical assistance to municipalities, and work on regional and statewide land use issues.  Having a separate line item OR securing their funding through depositing the $19 land use fee back into the Environmental Quality Fund or Conservation Fund has been agreed to be the most viable to keep secure and long-term funding.  It was always the legislature’s intent that these fees be used to fund the programs of these groups, and shuffling funding into a massive OE line item defeats the legislature’s intent.

The solution includes NO increase in fees or funding/

These groups respectfully request one of two things to maintain long-term and viable funding:

  1. a separate line item(s) in DEP’s budget or language in future Budget implementors designated for Conservation Districts, Council and ERT; the money for this line item is already included under the OE line item in DEP per Governor Rell’s  proposal and within the Environmental Quality Fund line item per Conservation & Development’s Subcommittee recommendations.  We are only asking that the designated amount for Conservation Districts, Council and ERT be maintained in a separate line item for these groups specifically or that language in the budget implementor confirm a potion of the Environmental Quality Fund is for these groups;

OR

  1. possible “status quo” ~ continue to deposit $19 of the land use application fee directly into the Environmental Quality Fund or Conservation Fund for Conservation Districts, Council and ERT.

Again, this is NOT a request for more dollars, as there are no new fees and no increase in funds we are seeking.  We are only asking to keep the Conservation Districts, Council and ERT whole as well as the programs that they provide to and for municipalities and each and every taxpayer.

**    **    **    **    **    **

More information on Council, Conservation Districts, ERT programs and their funding is provided on back side.

Contacts:

Council/ Suellen Kozey McCuin, Executive Director/ 860-767-9594

Jeff Folger, Co-Chairman of Legislation/Council, Chair/North Central Conservation District/ 860-644-2511 x 229

Districts/ David Askew, District Manager/North Central Conservation District/ 860-875-3881 x2

Tom ODell, Co-Chairman of Legislation/Council, Chair/CT River Coastal Conservation District/ 860-399-1807

ERT/ Elaine Sych, Coordinator/ERT 860-345-3877      Jim Sipperly, Co-Chairman ERT/ 860-334-7073

Below is a brief overview of Conservation District’s, Council and ERT Programs and their funding.

Connecticut’s Conservation Districts provide unbiased technical and environmental consulting services to a range of clients including municipalities, agriculture producers and private landowners.

  • Districts serve municipalities by providing expert opinion, technical review, and inspection services for complex development projects.  Districts also provide municipal staffing services in a number of towns by providing trained personnel to serve as wetland agent(s).

The Council on Soil and Water Conservation is dedicated to providing a statewide, regionally based, conservation and protection program for the land and water resources of the State of Connecticut.

  • The Council coordinates District programs with activities of the Department of Environmental Protection and other state, regional, municipal and local agencies.

The Connecticut Environmental Review Teams are a group of environmental professionals drawn together to form multidisciplinary environmental study teams to assist all 169 municipalities in reviewing sites proposed for development or preservation; they consist of a partnership of federal, state, regional and local agencies.

  • The ERT provides a unique free service of supplying objective, technical reports to local land use decision makers that strengthens support for community decisions, increases awareness of natural resources and provides information not readily available in a timely and cost effective manner.

Established in 1992, Public Act 92-235, the Land Use Fee Act, established the revenue source for the dedicated $19 of the present $30.00 fee collected by municipalities for funding Conservation Districts, the Council and ERT. Aimed at providing better land use decisions these services include project reviews for erosion and sedimentation control, storm water management and drinking water source protection; planning and implementation of watershed management plans; and coordination of district, state, and local efforts to protect soil and water and other natural resources. The public’s willingness to accept this fee was based on the promise that the money would be used for this purpose.

Nineteen dollars of the $30 dollar Land Use Fee revenues are distributed quarterly to 5 Conservation Districts, the Council on Soil and Water Conservation and the Environmental Review Team program to support technical natural resource services to municipalities, the agriculture community and private landowners, state-wide.  While the projected revenues fluctuate with land use development and the economy, they still provide the only dedicated fund for land use evaluation and assistance for making land use decisions. These funds also leverage Federal and private funds toward the same purposes.

If all EQ funds are diverted to the General Fund, as proposed, there will be a significant reduction in natural resource technical assistance available to municipalities and taxpayers and a step backward in the state’s efforts to implement smart growth through municipal cooperation within regions and watersheds.

Land use application fees were created by the legislature to support the services provided by Conservation Districts, Council and ERT as it recognized their value and the need for an adequate and viable funding source and the land use assistance provided to the municipalities and other taxpayers. The services provided by Conservation Districts and ERT offer a form of specialized regional assistance, not otherwise available to our municipalities and taxpayers.

Funds generated by the land use fees presently fund eight natural resource positions for assisting communities on a regional/statewide watershed basis. These include five technical natural resource specialists, one in each of the five Conservation Districts, one Coordinator and an assistant for the ERT and an Executive Director for the Council on Soil and Water who coordinates statewide work and land use programs of the Conservation Districts with state and federal agencies.

 

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