The Quabbin Reservoir is an invaluable resource in western Massachusetts that provides pristine drinking water to millions of people in eastern Massachusetts, as it is one of the largest unfiltered water supplies in the country. (Source)
This reservoir is so valuable that, not only were four municipalities evacuated and then flooded to create the Quabbin, to this day recreational activities are limited on and around the reservoir to protect the drinking water for approximately 3 million people in eastern Massachusetts. (Source)
Note that the surrounding communities in the region, known as the Quabbin watershed, are not able to use this resource for their own drinking water. More than that, these towns receive only minimal compensation for their sacrifices in keeping the Quabbin Reservoir a safe drinking water source.
In partnership with Representative Aaron Saunders, we have introduced a bill (H.897/S.447) to acknowledge the efforts of Quabbin watershed communities by providing reasonable payments for local municipal needs (like water infrastructure). The bill also provides for more representation of Connecticut River Valley interests on a governing board.
We hope you will join us in fighting for regional equity on April 26 at a Joint Committee on Environment and Natural Resources hearing about this bill.
To sign up to testify orally (in person or virtual):
To submit written testimony:
Email JointCommittee.Environment@malegislature.gov (please cc Jo.Comerford@masenate.gov and Aaron.Saunders@mahouse.gov on that email)
Below please find an in-depth summary of each section of the bill. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out at Jo.Comerford@masenate.gov.
447 / H. 897 – An Act Relative to the Quabbin Watershed and Regional Equity
Section 1 establishes the Quabbin Host Community Development Trust Fund, a separate fund for the municipal service, public safety, and development needs of the Quabbin Reservoir Watershed Communities. At least 70% of the fund’s expenditures will be made to the Quabbin Reservoir Watershed Communities for municipal operations and capital improvements. At most 25% of expenditures will be made to non-profit organizations directly serving the health, welfare, safety, and transit needs of the Quabbin Reservoir Watershed Communities, Connecticut River Basin communities, and Chicopee River Basin communities.
Section 2 requires that the PILOT payments paid in lieu of taxes to towns that contain watershed lands of the Quabbin Reservation be based on the total acreage of watershed land in each community, rather than only on the lands above the high water mark.
Section 3 instructs the Department of Conservation and Recreation to collect from the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) 5 cents for every 1000 gallons drawn from the Quabbin Reservoir. The revenues generated will go to the Quabbin Host Community Development Trust Fund.
Section 4 increases the number of members of the MWRA Board of Directors who are residents of a Connecticut River Basin community who represent land and water resources protection interests to three. Currently, there is one member from those communities on the Board.
Section 5 limits members of the MWRA Board of Directors to serving at most 12 years, excluding the secretary of the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs.
Section 6 instructs the MWRA to complete a Water System Expansion Evaluation of the Westfield River Basin communities, Chicopee River Basin communities, Connecticut River Basin communities and Millers River Basin by December 31, 2023. The evaluations must be consistent with the similar evaluation of the Ipswich River Basin from October, 2022. The section specifies that the state Water Resources Commission may not approve any interbasin transfer of water from the Quabbin Reservoir until the evaluation has been completed. The evaluation will be made publicly available on the MWRA website.