Led by Sen. DiZoglio, Group Seeks to Create Merrimack River District Commission

State Sen. Diana DiZoglio (WHAV News file photograph.)

State Sen. Diana DiZoglio and others are trying to fix a legislative snafu that paid for a Merrimack River District Commission, but didn’t formally create it.

The Commission would bring together local sewage management professionals, environmentalists, state agencies and elected officials to assess the current health of the Merrimack and map out strategies to ensure the health and safety of the river going forward.

“This commission has been a priority of mine since the start of this legislative session, as I work to bring together stakeholders from all along the Merrimack to address issues around pollution, including discharge from combined sewer overflows,” said DiZoglio. “We have never convened a diverse group of experts from various sectors to work together, agree on the basic facts and advise the legislature on how to proceed to restore our beloved river so that it may be here for future generations to explore and enjoy.”

Though unanimously passed by the Senate, DiZoglio said, language to establish the Commission was eliminated after budget negotiations began with the House on the final Conference Committee Report—despite the inclusion in the final report of $50,000 to fund it.

DiZoglio, along with state Sens. Edward J. Kennedy of Lowell, Barry R. Finegold of Andover, Bruce E. Tarr of Gloucester and James B. Eldridge of Acton), sent a letter to Senate Ways and Means Chairman Michael J. Rodrigues, asking the legislation be moved to the Senate floor.

In June, DiZoglio and the Merrimack Valley Planning Commission hosted a kick-off of the Merrimack River District Commission that was attended by more than 50 people, environmentalists and experts, including the Army Corps of Engineers.

“While this group will be funded, it is imperative that the Commission be established at the state level, as this will formalize the process, requiring that a report be delivered back to the legislature on the Commission’s findings regarding the health of the Merrimack,” said DiZoglio. “This report will help our region identify both short- and long-term solutions.”

While the proposed Commission was not included in the final Conference Committee report, the final budget did include an amendment sponsored by DiZoglio for $100,000 toward a pilot program to notify swimmers and boaters of combined sewer overflows in the Merrimack. The program uses paper and electronic methods to notify residents of potential concerns.

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