The Upper Merrimack River Local Advisory Committee, affectionately known as UMRLAC (pronounced Uhm’-re-lack), had an interesting year including a full slate of summer and fall field work; participating in presentations, workshops, and other training sessions; extended laboratory time for Bug Nights, presentations to the public and civic groups; launching a new blog with timely and topical information; and continuing its co-hosting with St. Paul’s School of the Winter Series Birckhead Science Lectures partnership.
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 Rivers Management and Protection Program.
The UMRLAC continues to lead and manage the Upper Merrimack Monitoring Program (UMMP) as it enters its twentieth year in 2015 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 river samples and the Franklin Waste Water Treatment Plant analyzes them to detect the presence or absence of E. coli bacteria (the Plant does not charge the UMMP and also monitors two sites in Franklin). The resulting data are used to determine if the upper Merrimack River is safe for swimming, fishing, boating, and other recreational activities. Many thanks to sample couriers Bill Dawson, Northfield; Anne Emerson, Canterbury; and Michele Tremblay, Boscawen. These Concord-to-Franklin pick-up and drop-off runs are time-consuming but are essential for timely sample chain-of-custody and processing.
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 commitment and quality of volunteers that participate in the UMMP cannot be overstated and is the primary reason this program has been recognized nationally for generating superior citizen science results. Current water quality data, generated by UMMP volunteers, are posted at www.MerrimackRiver.org.
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. Welcome to new sponsor, GZA Environmental, Inc. GZA joins other Adopt-a-River Site Sponsors Aquarian Analytical Laboratories, Inc., Aries Engineering, Inc., Elektrisola, Essex/Briar Hydro, Franklin Savings Bank, Franklin Wastewater Treatment Facility, Public Service of New Hampshire (Corporate and Merrimack Station), and Watts Regulator/Webster Valve.
The UMRLAC was proud to partner again this year with St. Paul’s School (SPS) on the UMRLAC Winter Community Program and SPS Birckhead Science Lecture Series with a screening of the film, “Gimme Green,” followed by a panel presentation and discussion. Panelists included Ken Jordan, Ken Jordan Realty Associates; Cathy Neal, University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension; and Britt Phillips, Complete Land Organics. The film provided an often humorous depiction of yard maintenance, its environmental, economic, and social norms. The panelists provided their perspectives and expertise on the economic, housing value, environmental, and social implications of yard and lawn maintenance to a packed house of nearly one hundred attendees. The March 26, 2015 winter program will feature presenter, Michael J. Caduto, who will present “Bones of Stone: How New Hampshire’s Geology and Glaciology formed the Granite State.” Please visit www.MerrimackRiver.org to sign up for email announcements on this and other events.
The UMRLAC reviewed and provided local comment on several project plans and proposals important to our region. Reviews included the Canterbury-Boscawen Bridge removal (including a special meeting in Canterbury and a subsequent one in Boscawen to help meet municipal due dates), power line maintenance and National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System applications (Bow), Executive Health and Sports Center redevelopment, and Sewalls Falls Bridge removal and replacement (Concord), and NH Department of Transportation roadway and culvert maintenance permit applications for work in Boscawen and Franklin. The UMRLAC continued to monitor the Federal Energy and Regulatory Commission application and updates by the Public Service of New Hampshire for Merrimack Station in Bow.
Several UMRLAC representatives met with their respective municipal boards to discuss their understanding of and support for a possible nomination into the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.
The UMRLAC continued its series of inviting experts to present on a variety of issues to help representatives better understand complex issues and policies. Jacquie Colburn and Tracie Sales, Rivers Management and Protection Program, NH Department of Environmental Services (NHDES), provided an overview of current and proposed statute provisions. Wayne Ives, NHDES, presented and overview and status on the state’s instream flow process. Brian Sullivan, City of Franklin, provided historical context on and proposals for the future of the Winnipesaukee River Basin Program. Alan Larter, Franklin Falls Hydroelectric Corporation, provided a tour and presentation of his firm’s operations on the Winnipesaukee River. Chris Skoglund, NHDES, presented on climate change including current studies and adaptation strategies relating to water resources. Renee Bourdeau, currently employed with Geosyntech Consultants, and formerly a graduate student at the University of New Hampshire presented her study and findings on the Upper Merrimack Monitoring Program. Renee conducted the study while a graduate student.
The UMRLAC formed a group of advisors to assist Colby Sawyer College students with their practicum on the stormwater component of the City of Franklin downtown revitalization. The UMRLAC loaned its stereo microscopes to the New Hampshire Association of Natural Resource Scientists for their riparian grasses identification workshop. Rick Chormann, UMRLAC representative, participated in the training workshop.
Steve Landry and Michele Tremblay prepared and presented a program, “Bow’s Got Bugs” for a Bow Rotary Club meeting in December. Steve and Michele participated in the plan review and comment mini-workshop in November convened by the NH Department of Environmental Services and the New Hampshire Rivers Council, hosted at their headquarters.
The UMRLAC welcomed Alan Larter as the newest representative from the City of Franklin. At its annual meeting in November, the UMRLAC elected officers Michele Tremblay, Chair; Steve Landry, Vice-Chair, Krista Crowell, Treasurer; and Gary Lynn, Secretary.
Please visit the UMRLAC’s new blog at www.MerrimackRiver.org/forum as well as its website, www.MerrimackRiver.org 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. Information is also available on Facebook and Twitter.
The UMRLAC meets on a rotating basis in its six represented communities on the second Monday of each month at 7:00 PM. Thank you 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 financial support during 2014. All are welcome to attend the meetings. For further information, please contact Michele Tremblay, Chair via telephone at 603.796.2615, or email at UMRLAC@MerrimackRiver.org, or through your municipal representatives listed below.
Stephen C. Landry
Michele L. Tremblay