As is the case with all volunteer committees and board, the Upper Merrimack River Local Advisory Committee, (known locally and affectionately as UMRLAC; pronounced Uhm’-re-lack) closed out 2020 with virtual meetings and finding ways to keep its work moving for the upper Merrimack towns and cities.
The UMRLAC was created as a one of the first local river management advisory committees in 1990, enabled in RSA 483, as part of the New Hampshire Rivers Management and Protection Program, and represents Boscawen, Bow, Canterbury, Concord, Franklin, and Northfield through its statutory duties including permit review and management plan coordination. The UMRLAC provides a voice for the upper Merrimack River towns and cities through the river’s designation in the New Hampshire Rivers Management and Protection Program. The UMRLAC updates the Merrimack River Management and Implementation Plan (http://www.merrimackriver.org/managementplan) and coordinates the activities in it.
The reason that the UMRLAC has been able to continue its work is that the representatives have always worked cohesively and have viewed this time of remote meetings and other work as a challenge and not an obstacle. In addition to offering insights and views into personal spaces with cats and dogs making appearances, it allows anyone to observe proceedings and participate from anywhere.
Gary Lemay acted as lead in monitoring and commenting on Federal Energy Regulatory Commission applications for Eastman Falls, Kelley’s Falls, Mad River, Lakeport, Contoocook, and Lowell projects.
The UMRLAC reviewed and provided local comment on several project plans and proposals in the upper Merrimack including invasives and trash management in Concord, a crossing at the I-89 junction, a gravel operation in Boscawen, and wastewater treatment facilities upgrades in Penacook and Franklin. Gary Lemay led a process to provide comment letter formats based on the UMRLAC’s permit review guidelines. The Alternation of Terrain letter is approved. Gary is now working on letters for wetlands, shoreland, and other permit applications.
The UMRLAC is represented by Mike Hansen on the Brownfields Advisory Committee administered by the Central New Hampshire Regional Planning Commission. The UMRLAC wrote a letter of support for the grant to continue the project.
All of the state’s local river advisory committees have been represented by New Hampshire Senator Ruth Ward on the state Rivers Management Advisory Committee.
Stephen C. Landry and Michele L. Tremblay provided Bug Nights training to the Upper Merrimack River Local Advisory Committee. This is the same training provided at the beginning of each year’s Bug Night.
The UMRLAC sponsored the New Hampshire Rivers Council’s Wild & Scenic® Film Festival and the Council’s projects, as well as Friends of the Northern Rail Trail.
Non-statutory or discretionary programs include a variety of studies, planning activities, and programs related to the upper Merrimack River and its watershed. The UMRLAC is working with the Upper Merrimack Watershed Association (UMWA) so that it may assume and manage its non-statutory activities including community outreach, and an informative and data-rich website. The St. Paul’s School of the Upper Merrimack Monitoring Program Winter Series and Birckhead Science Lectures partnership, and in-person Upper Merrimack Monitoring Program (UMMP) Bug Nights are on pause.
The Upper Merrimack Monitoring Program, which has been working for its communities’ rivers since 1994, depends on the high quality work of over a hundred volunteers each year who monitor river and stream health on the upper Merrimack River and its tributaries at a total of seventeen sites from Franklin to Bow. During this past summer, we were able to monitor only four sites due to the pandemic. The Franklin Waste Water Treatment Plant analyzes them at no charge to detect the presence or absence of E. coli bacteria. The resulting data are used to determine if the upper Merrimack River is safe for swimming, fishing, boating, and other recreational activities. The information is shared with municipalities and other local officials for their health officers’ and other local officials’ use, as well as to the State of New Hampshire and the US Congress. We hope to find a way to return to monitoring more sites in the summer of 2021. We were able to provide a system to keep volunteers isolated and safe to collect the 2020 season of macroinvertebrate samples. Some volunteers have stepped up to do “homework” to keep us on track and continue this important work.
As has been the case for many years, St. Paul’s School has been 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 each Wednesday evening. 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. Over 80 volunteer citizen scientists contributed their time to the Upper Merrimack Monitoring Program. We were able to work together until mid-February and then had to suspend classroom activities to keep volunteers safe.
The UMMP work would not be possible without the generosity of all six of its municipal supporters and eleven Adopt-a-River Site Sponsors. Their support assures that the program has the resources that it needs to continue its programs. Adopt-a-River Site Sponsors include Aries Engineering, Inc., Elektrisola, Essex/Briar Hydro, Franklin Savings Bank, Franklin Wastewater Treatment Facility, Granite Shore Power, GZA Environmental, Inc., Nelson Analytical Lab, and Watts Regulator/Webster Valve.
The UMRLAC annual meeting will be postponed until January.
Please visit the UMRLAC’s 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.
Normally, the UMRLAC meets on a rotating basis in its six represented communities on the second Monday of each month (except for holidays and unforeseen conflicts) at 7:00 pm. Thank you to the Towns, Cities, and other organizations in Boscawen, Bow, Canterbury, Concord, Franklin, and Northfield for graciously hosting Upper Merrimack River Local Advisory Committee meetings and for their financial support during the past year. All are welcome to attend the meetings, which are now held virtually due to the state of emergency. For further information on the UMRLAC and how to access meetings, , please contact Michele Tremblay, Chair via telephone at 603.796.2615, email at UMRLAC@MerrimackRiver.org or through your representatives listed below, or visit MerimackRiver.org.
Ashley Warner (term expired 12.2020)
Stephen C. Landry
Nita Tomaszewski (resigned)
Michele L. Tremblay