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Tsongas unveils bill to designate the Nashua River as Wild & Scenic

GROTON, MA – September 20, 2018 – This morning, Congresswoman Niki Tsongas (MA-03) joined river stakeholders and elected officials on the banks of the Nashua River to unveil H.R. 6825, the “Nashua River Wild & Scenic River Act of 2018,” new legislation that would designate the river and two of its tributaries, the Squannacook and Nissitissit Rivers, as components of the national Wild & Scenic Rivers System. This designation will help preserve and protect the historic waterways and make them eligible to receive federal funding for further conservation efforts.

The introduction of this bill culminates a long effort spearheaded by Tsongas to secure this designation. Inspired by the advocacy of Marion Stoddart and the Nashua River Watershed Association, in 2012, Tsongas introduced a bill to authorize the National Park Service (NPS) to conduct a study on the Nashua, Squannacook and Nissitissit Rivers, to determine their eligibility for designation as Wild & Scenic Rivers.  That bill was applauded by the Republican Chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, and ultimately was signed into law by President Obama in 2014. 

That legislation allowed the National Park Service, the Watershed Association, and local governments and stakeholders to work together in forming a stewardship plan to protect the Nashua River. Earlier this year, the 11 communities through which the rivers run in Massachusetts and New Hampshire all voted "yes" at their Annual Town Meetings to accept the Nashua, Squannacook, and Nissitissit Rivers Stewardship Plan locally developed by the Nashua River Wild & Scenic River Study Committee, together with its recommendation to seek Wild & Scenic River designation. The resounding approval from each of the surrounding towns marked another critical step forward for this effort.

The final step toward finalizing this designation is approval from Congress.

“The history and development of the towns and cities in the Third District of Massachusetts has been defined by the many rivers that course through these unique communities,” said Congresswoman Niki Tsongas. “But time and development have not always been kind to these rivers. By the mid-1960s, the Nashua River was one of the most polluted rivers in the nation.  In fact, the river would change color almost daily, because of the inks and dyes released into the river by the paper factories. The river was so badly polluted that it was classified as unfit to even receive any further sewage, and the days of seeing fish swimming through the water were long gone.

“But in 1965, one Third District resident, Marion Stoddart, realized that something had to be done. Ms. Stoddart formed the Nashua River Clean-Up Committee to work toward cleaning up the river and protecting the land along its banks. Thanks to her work, and the continued work of the Nashua River Watershed Association, the Nashua River has come a long way since the 1960s. Pollution from the mills has been cleaned up, new sewage treatment plants now keep sewage out of the river, and more than 8,000 acres of land and 85 miles of greenway along the riverbanks have been permanently conserved,” Tsongas added.

“But there is still much work to be done, and that is why I partnered with the Nashua River Watershed Association to introduce a bill that initiated a three-year study to determine whether roughly 28 miles of the Nashua River and its tributaries can be designated as Wild and Scenic Rivers. That study is now complete, and every town through which the Nashua River passes, in addition to several local environmental organizations, support this designation. Thanks to the work of the Nashua River Watershed Association, the Nashua has undergone a tremendous recovery and the introduction of this bill to finalize the rivers’ designation as a Wild & Scenic River will enable additional preservation efforts while allowing this natural treasure to be enjoyed for many years to come,” Tsongas concluded.

Tsongas, a senior member of the House Natural Resources Committee, introduced the bill in the House with New Hampshire Congresswoman Ann McLane Kuster (NH-02). A companion bill, S. 3468, was introduced in the Senate by Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and New Hampshire Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan are co-sponsors of the Senate bill.

“Since the 1960s, the Nashua River has gone from one of the top ten most polluted rivers in the nation to an acclaimed model for river restoration, and that’s because its neighbors cared enough to make a difference,” said Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey. “This legislation recognizes the deep relationship that local communities have with the Nashua, Squannacook, and Nissitissit Rivers. It will help us continue to safeguard this watershed, so that generations to come can canoe and fish in its waters and hike on its trails. It will preserve the region’s specific ecological and historical values, building up our knowledge of the past and protecting important species into the future.”

“I am pleased to support Congresswoman Tsongas and Senator Markey in implementing the Stewardship Plan and designating these rivers in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System,” said Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. “This bill would bring much-needed federal funding to these communities, and would go a long way towards protecting and maintaining the Commonwealth’s waterways. I look forward to working with my colleagues to see this bill signed into law.”

“This legislation will benefit communities across the region by protecting the Nashua River’s waters, wildlife, and natural and historical resources,” said New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen. “Protecting and preserving the Nashua River, and surrounding environment, is a critical investment towards safeguarding today’s natural beauty for generations to come, and I will continue advocating for efforts to that end Congress.”

 “I am pleased to join my New England colleagues in introducing this important legislation to protect and preserve the Nashua River and help ensure that the river and its tributaries can be enjoyed by future generations,” said New Hampshire Senator Maggie Hassan.

“I am proud to support this legislation that will designate the Nissitissit River under the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System,” said New Hampshire Congresswoman Ann McLane Kuster (NH-02). “This designation enjoys broad, local support from conservation groups, regional planning commissions and individual towns that have a vested interest in protecting the Nissitissit River for years to come. This area serves as a critical habitat for many local species in New Hampshire, and I encourage my colleagues in Congress to bring this legislation to the floor.”

In June 2014, Congresswoman Tsongas’s bill, the “Nashua River Wild & Scenic River Study Act,” passed the Republican-controlled House of Representatives with unanimous bipartisan support and was later signed into law by President Barack Obama. The National Park Service, in coordination with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, state and local governments, and community stakeholders, recently completed a three-year feasibility study of the Nashua River and its tributaries authorized by the 2014 legislation. This new legislation implements the recommendations of the Study Committee, including designation of the rivers as Wild & Scenic. All eleven towns participating in the study – nine in Massachusetts and two in New Hampshire – voted at their respective town meeting to endorse the recommendations of the Study Committee.

According to the Nashua River Watershed Association, the watershed encompasses 538 square miles of land that drains into the Nashua River and its tributaries located in north central Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire. The 32 communities that lie within the geographic bounds of the watershed – home to approximately 250,000 residents – range from urban mill towns seeking revitalization to rural communities facing the pressures of rapid development. With over 70% forest cover, the watershed is ranked by the U.S. Forest Service as one of the best in the country for providing clean drinking water.

Created by Congress in 1968 through the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act, the National Wild & Scenic Rivers System preserves certain rivers with outstanding natural, cultural, and recreational values in a free-flowing condition for the enjoyment of present and future generations of Americans. Each designated river is administered by a locally appointed advisory committee with the assistance of either a state or federal agency such as the National Park Service. If H.R. 6825 becomes law, the Nashua River would join the Concord, Sudbury, and Assabet as rivers in the Third District that have been designated as Wild & Scenic.

For text of H.R. 6825:
For text of S. 3468:

For more information on the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act:

For more information on the Nashua River Watershed Association: