The Upper Merrimack River Local Advisory Committee (UMRLAC: pronounced Uhm’-re-lack) had a varied and exciting year including unpredictable weather in the summer during field work, unpredictable weather during the winter for Bug Nights, co-hosting a smashing success of a public program, being featured in a new, citizen science book, and managing two grant funded projects in partnership with the Central New Hampshire Regional Planning Commission.
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 towns’ and cities’ advisory board through its designation in the state’s Rivers Management and Protection Program.
In 2013, the Upper Merrimack Monitoring Program (UMMP) was selected from hundreds of other programs across North America to be one of the few featured in a new book, Citizen Science Guide for Families: taking part in real science written by Greg Landgraf and published by the American Library Association. Unlike the other programs in the book, the UMMP is an unusually ambitious program that is managed and staffed wholly by volunteers with no paid professionals.
The UMMP is entering its nineteenth year in 2014 and continues to depend on the high quality work of over a hundred volunteers to monitor river and stream health on the upper Merrimack River and its tributaries at a total of seventeen sites. During the summer, volunteers collect water samples and the Franklin Waste Water Treatment Facility analyzes them at no cost. The resulting data are used to determine if the upper Merrimack River is safe for swimming, fishing, boating, and other recreational activities. St. Paul’s School continues to be the gracious host for “Bug Nights,” the UMMP’s educational and research program, which continues its popularity in the region with dozens of individuals volunteering their sample sorting and identification services. The generosity of the municipal and Adopt-a-River Site Sponsors assures that the UMRLAC has the resources that it needs to continue its programs. Thank you to 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.
The UMRLAC was proud to partner on its winter program this year with St. Paul’s School. “Mapping the Merrimack,” presented to nearly a hundred attendees by researcher David Stewart-Smith. The presentation focused on the history of post-Columbian mapping in the vast Merrimack watershed. A film screening and panel discussion is planned for early 2014.
The Central New Hampshire Regional Planning Commission (CNHRPC) and UMRLAC completed a project to implement a significant section of the Upper Merrimack Management and Implementation Plan. The study assessed land protection throughout the region and included a questionnaire 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. In 2014, the UMRLAC will work with CNHRPC staff, Matt Monahan to begin a study of impervious surfaces in the watershed and create maps and other planning materials for the area cities and towns. Studies document that even 10 percent of ground covered by pavement, buildings, or other impervious surfaces cause measureable decreases in water quality. 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.
The UMRLAC reviewed and provided local comment on several project plans and proposals important to our region. Reviews included the Eastman Falls relicensing in the upper part of the watershed; a hydropower application by Briar Hydro in Boscawen (Briar participates in a low-impact program so the UMRLAC reviewed the application but did not comment because of the firm’s excellent compliance); a wetland permit for the Hess Law Offices building and Public Service Company of New Hampshire’s utility work in Bow; Concord Crossing, Concord Steam, and Public Service Company of New Hampshire in Concord; and culvert work by the NH Department of Transportation.
Steve Landry, Gary Lynn, and Michele Tremblay prepared and presented a unique interaction training session at the state Local River Management Advisory Committees workshop in October. “Don’t Get Caught with Your Plans Down,” provided participants with insights on a streamlined and effective process to review and comment on state wetlands, alteration of terrain, and other permit applications. The session was a virtual UMRLAC pre-meeting and meeting scenario that showcased the UMRLAC’s methods from email notification to letter drafting as a skit where workshop attendees could participate.
The UMRLAC welcomed Madeleine Mineau from Concord and Wayne Ives from Franklin this year. Robert Sharon, a charter representative to the UMRLAC retired from his service to the City of Franklin. The UMRLAC expresses its gratitude for Bob’s support and work with the Committee over the past twenty-five years. 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.
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 demonstrating their passion for water quality monitoring in the upper Merrimack watershed. 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, UMRLAC@MerrimackRiver.org, and www.MerrimackRiver.org, or any of your municipal representatives listed below.
Stephen C. Landry
Michele L. Tremblay
Wayne Ives (new appointemnt)
Robert Sharon (retired)