The Upper Merrimack River Local Advisory Committee, affectionately known as “UMRLAC” (pronounced Uhm’-re-lack) started out its year with a public program on Native American history along the Merrimack. David Stewart-Smith provided a riveting presentation to a crowd of over one hundred guests at the Boscawen Town Hall in February.
The UMRLAC hosted two sessions in partnership with the New Hampshire Rivers Council. The first was a listening session in Northfield to garner public input and suggestions to improve the Water Quality Shoreland Protection Act over the summer. This input has been incorporated with the listening sessions held all over New Hampshire and incorporated into a legislative service request for the 2013 General Court session. In July, the UMRLAC hosted a “River Runners” training session in Franklin. The participants learned how to identify invasive species such as Eurasian Milfoil and Didymo (also known as “rock snot”) and how to address their findings. For further information on these two partnership initiatives, please visit www.NHRivers.org.
The Upper Merrimack Monitoring Program (UMMP) was one of several volunteer programs selected for a soon-to-be published book on citizen science. The UMMP is unique in that it is managed and staffed by volunteers with no paid professionals, assuring the largest possible “bang for the buck” and public involvement in water quality monitoring for the upper Merrimack.
Now in its seventeenth year, the UMMP continues to work with several dozen volunteers to monitor river and stream health on the upper Merrimack River and its tributaries at a total of seventeen sites. Thanks to the dedicated efforts of UMMP volunteers during the summer, the bacteria samples collected and analyzed demonstrated that the upper Merrimack River was safe for swimming and other recreational activities throughout the 2012 UMMP sampling season from June through September. Other UMMP volunteers devoted time and effort to document the abundance and health of the aquatic insect communities that dwell in the upper Merrimack River and its tributaries. Those samples were preserved in the field for enumeration and identification this winter in the laboratory.
Special thanks go to St. Paul’s School for graciously hosting UMRLAC’s “Bug Nights” educational and research program, which continues its popularity in the region with dozens of individuals volunteering their sample sorting and identification services. They stored our equipment and supplies over the spring and summer and then moved them into their new science building where Bug Nights will be convened in 2013. There would not be Bug Nights without the generous hosting, wonderful staff support, and student participation from St. Paul’s School.
The UMRLAC owes much of its success to strong and ongoing municipal support and that from its Adopt-a-River Site Sponsors. The Program’s Adopt-a-River Site Sponsors include Aquarian Analytical Laboratories, Inc., Aries Engineering, Inc., Checkmate Expert Payroll Services, Elektrisola, Essex/Briar Hydro, Franklin Savings Bank, Franklin Wastewater Treatment Facility, Public Service of NH (Corporate and Merrimack Station), and Watts Regulator/Webster Valve.
Continuing its work with the Central New Hampshire Regional Planning Commission (CNHRPC), the UMRLAC continues to implement the Upper Merrimack Management and Implementation Plan. The study assessed land protection throughout the region and included a survey of Planning Boards and Conservation Commissions in the Upper Merrimack River region; the development of a set of maps showing conservation lands, current use enrollment, and high quality habitat areas; and the development of a report summarizing the findings and recent development trends. Based on responses to the questionnaire, each community was presented with a resource information sheet containing links to resources requested by the Planning Board and Conservation Commission. Resource topics include information on Low Impact Development (LID), changes to the Shoreland Water Quality Protection Act, information on easements and conservation funding, and more. Many thanks to Vanessa Goold and Matt Monahan, CNHRPC, for their fine work on this continuing effort. The Management and Implementation Plan is posted as a PDF and an interactive “page turning” version at http://www.merrimackriver.org/managementplan/ along with the tools and other products produced to date.
As part of Plan implementation, the UMRLAC submitted an Aquatic Resource Mitigation application to repair the badly eroded slope rope swing area along the Merrimack River in Boscawen. This erosion is also threatening the abandoned railway bed, which is in the process of being converted to a trail that begins in Lebanon and is proposed to extend to Concord. Unfortunately the project did not rate highly enough to qualify for funding. The UMRLAC plans to continue its search for funding to address this significant threat to river quality and public safety. The UMRLAC is also working with the Friends of the Northern Rail Trail through monetary support and partnership to complete the trail.
The UMRLAC provided local comment on several project plans and proposals important to our region. Reviews included applications for the Wolf Development (Boscawen); Grappone Toyota riverbank work and boat dock and Public Service Company of New Hampshire ground cables (Bow); Canterbury Shaker Village dam repair (Canterbury); Beaver Meadow skating rink, Buffalo Wild Wings redevelopment, and Concord Steam Plant (Concord); and Public Service Company of New Hampshire utility pole work, Watts Regulator Foundry, National Guard Armory, and a permit application for the Mojalaki Golf Course (Franklin).
Michele Tremblay, Chair, continues to participate in a standard operating procedures work group to streamline permitting requirements and notifications with the NH Department of Environmental Services. She is working to assure that municipal notice and influence are maintained and enhanced.
Established in 1990, the UMRLAC has represented its six communities of Boscawen, Bow, Canterbury, Concord, Franklin, and Northfield in a variety of studies, planning activities, and programs related to the upper Merrimack River and its watershed, and serves as the area towns’ and cities’ advisory board on its designation in the state’s Rivers Management and Protection Program. The UMRLAC is grateful for the ongoing support by all of the upper Merrimack cities and towns.
At its annual meeting, the UMRLAC elected officers Michele Tremblay, Chair; Steve Landry, Vice-Chair, Krista Crowell, Treasurer; and Gary Lynn, Secretary. Robert Sharon’s term expired this year. Currently, the UMRLAC is recruiting Concord representatives. Please contact Michele Tremblay at MLT@naturesource.net or 603.796.2615 if you are interested in working with the UMRLAC or have a recommendation on a representative.
The UMRLAC continues to publish its “River Ramblings” column with each representative taking a turn submitting the article. Please look for it in your town and city newsletters.
Please visit UMRLAC’s website for further information on the river, committee membership, activities, summaries from prior meetings, upcoming meeting agendas, maps, water quality data, and photographs of brave and selfless volunteers in action. The UMRLAC meets on a rotating basis in its six represented communities on the second Monday of each month at 7:00 pm. Many thanks to the Towns and Cities of Boscawen, Bow, Canterbury, Concord, Franklin, and Northfield for graciously hosting Upper Merrimack River Local Advisory Committee meetings and for their continued support. All are welcome to attend the meetings. For additional information, please contact Michele Tremblay at 603.796.2615, www.MerrimackRiver.org, or any of your municipal representatives listed below.
Stephen C. Landry
Michele L. Tremblay