A new bill which would help protect local rivers has passed in the U.S. House of Representatives.  The Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Protection Act, could clear the way for making the Wood and Pawcatuck Rivers eligible for federal funds and protections under the Wild and Scenic Rivers act, which currently does not cover the South county waterways.

The bill’s sponsor, Rhode Island Congressman Jim Langevin said “Our state’s economy relies on the health of our waters, which have a tremendous impact on our tourism and fishing industries, offer opportunities for businesses, and increase the overall quality of life in our state.”

Similar legislation has been proposed in the U.S. Senate by Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed.  Passage of the bill would allow a committee made up of state, local, tribal, non-profit, recreational and agricultural representatives to proceed with an evaluation of which parts of the Beaver, Chipuxet, Queen, Wood, and Pawcatuck Rivers in Rhode Island and Connecticut should fit into a special classification under the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.

These segments would then be designated as eligible for existing federal funds and would prevent federal support for actions that would harm the rivers’ free-flowing condition, water quality, or outstanding resource values.