The Connecticut River valley has been in use by humans for at least 11,000 years, as evidenced by the rock petroglyphs on its Vermont shoreline in Bellows Falls. It provided verdant land and good hunting grounds for early indigenous peoples. Indian corn fields flourished on both sides of the river in the rich floodplains along its entire length. The river, whose Mohican name, quinnitukqut, means “long tidal river,” was the principle north-south travel route before roads and trains.
Today, with 22 dams along its 410-mile length, models that describe the flow pattern of the Connecticut River are being completed for the first time ever. The whole system is being studied and mapped, with five of the river’s hydroelectric dams up for relicensing by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Three of these dams are in Vermont and New Hampshire, and two in Massachusetts.
The FERC relicensing process has spurred a four-state collaborative process, involving Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Vermont, with state and federal agencies and non-profits all gathering data and assessing the Connecticut River’s watershed and uses. The states have agreed to keep four things in mind: the ecology and effects of the flow of the river, recreational uses, erosion, and the temperature of the water.