Around the Watershed: upper Merrimack community Archive

Rock Basket Days are here again: will you be there?

Rock Basket Days are here again…
Will you be there?

Basket Deployment day: June 28, 2017
Basket Retrieval day: August 16, 2017

Rock basket days are finally here again. We are preparing a roster for the two big days. There is some flexibility in deployment and retrieval but we are shooting for seven weeks from start-to-finish.

Tentatively, we plan to meet in June 28 and August 16 at 4:30 in the NH Department of Envirnmental Services parking lot for training, refresher, safety briefing, and equipment distribution.

Please confirm your participation by completing this brief form or emailing

Questions? Never hesitate to call us at 603.796.2615.

Merrimack River on list of 10 most threatened rivers in U.S.

Monitor staff
Tuesday, April 12, 2016

When a national organization added the Merrimack River to its list of the 10 most threatened rivers in America, its concern wasn’t one big thing but a whole lot of little things. You’re probably sitting underneath one of those things right now.

“It’s not just pavement, it’s also roofs; anything that water can’t pass through,” said Michele Tremblay, chairwoman of the Upper Merrimack River Local Advisory Council [sic]. “Rain hits it, takes anything along for the ride – petroleum, animal waste, fertilizers, failed septic systems – and off it goes into the nearest brook or stream.

“It’s like a ‘fun slide’ for contaminants,” she said.

American Rivers, a national advocacy group, annually lists 10 rivers it thinks are most endangered. This year’s list includes rivers that flow through 15 states and face threats such as pollution from mountaintop-removal mining in West Virginia and too much water being removed by cities and farmers in California.

For the Merrimack River, which flows from central New Hampshire through northeastern Massachusetts, the problem is more diverse: development that creates impervious surfaces. Roads, parking lots, warehouses and homes all keep rain from seeping into the ground when it hits but instead direct it somewhere else, sometimes creating flooding, sometimes harming underground aquifers that aren’t getting replenished, sometimes carrying pollutants into the river.

“Pavement is rapidly replacing trees across the Merrimack River watershed . . . (and) is the largest threat that the Merrimack River watershed faces today. The U.S. Forest Service ranks the Merrimack River watershed as the most threatened in the country due to the development of forest lands,” writes the group in its report, “2016 America’s Most Endangered Rivers.”

Tackling development and other “non-point-source” causes of water pollution can be difficult, because it involves changes that affect many people, such as new zoning regulations or limitations on fertilizer usage, as compared with something like improving a deficient wastewater treatment plant.

“It is easier to go after the big discharge – I call them the elephants,” Tremblay said. “They’re big, you get an elephant gun. But this is like ants, and we’re all ants, that’s the challenging part.”

American Rivers, in its report, urges the Environmental Protection Agency “to create a regional watershed team and implement key safeguards including protection for important forest lands along rivers and streams, green infrastructure solutions, and improved stormwater management to reduce the excess nutrients and pathogens in the river.”

It points to similar teams in other places facing water quality challenges, including the Chesapeake Bay, Great Lakes and Gulf of Mexico, and also specifically to work in Lawrence, Mass.

The Merrimack River starts in Franklin, where the Pemigewasset and Winnipesaukee rivers join together, and flows 117 miles south into Massachusetts and then east, emptying into the Atlantic Ocean at Newburyport, Mass. The watershed – the total region where any water ends up in the Merrimack River, and thus where development can affect water quality – includes both the Pemigewasset and Winnipesaukee rivers as well as the Contoocook River, a major tributary and thus covers more than half of New Hampshire. The watershed extends north into the White Mountains and west to the edge of the Connecticut River Valley.

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or or on Twitter @GraniteGeek)

Fan Fiction: Henry Finds a New Family

Bug Nights 2016, Chapter 8, March 23

Henry Finds a New Family

by Liz Garlo

It was a cold and drizzly night, but inside the St. Paul’s School biological lab, it was warm and the brightly lit aquaria bubbled cheerfully as people began arriving. An air of intimacy developed as the program manager and sampling supervisor and a dozen or so citizen scientists began setting up microscopes so we could start the night’s work. Tonight we would finish the “rough sorting” of the macroinvertebrate samples taken from the Merrimack River. Since there were only two samples left, all agreed to work cooperatively in order to finish them and instead of sitting in the usual two rooms, we all sat in the same room, thereby making sure no one missed any of the lively conversation.

Michele, the woman in the white lab coat, busily hawked raffle tickets for the up and coming river festival, and noted that Henry was wearing pajamas which had no pockets, so he would be forgiven for not being able to buy any tickets. No such reprieves were given to anyone else. Henry, by far the youngest member of the group, explained that the reason he was wearing pajamas was because it was “Wear your Pajamas to School Day,” and besides, they were comfortable. Someone suggested that maybe we could try it too for the next Bug Night, since most of us had missed that ritual in high school. Henry only lamented that his Mother had eaten his (pre) Easter candy, and Michele promptly started doling out little KitKats from a big bag.

Soon, Henry raised his had with a question… he had begun the identification of the aquatic organisms removed from the sample he had just finished. He had recognized that one was new and different. Since Michele was near by, he asked her to come take a look. Quickly, Michele called to Steve, the big taxonomic cahoona, and said, “Bring the keys.” After much shuffling and flipping of pages, the three agreed on the identification. It was a new family. Now to understand the importance of this, you must realize the volunteer program has been repeated annually for over twenty years, and new families are now a rare occurrence. Michele announced that Henry had gotten the taxonomy spot-on as far as our local guide goes, and would be duly recognized by putting his name on a new page for the guide that would appear next year. Wow, does it get any better than that?

Steve needed a break after all that taxonomy, and left the room. Michele told us that she had taken Owen, one of her four rescue cats, to be shaved. Owen is an orange male with six-inch long hair. The problem is that he gets full of static electricity in the winter, so he needed a trim. It was at this time that Michele, being impressed with Henry’s taxonomic prowess, stated that she would be happy to adopt him too. After all, his own mother had eaten his pre-Easter candy. It was at that point that Steve returned to the room to hear Michele promoting her offer of adoption to Henry. A slight look of concern passed quickly over his face. Henry, however, managed to save the day by stating that he thought he might die of cat allergies, preventing the need for further discussion between the husband and wife. Henry passed on the chance of setting a record, getting two new families in one night.

A few days later, Liz, one of the least deserving volunteer citizen scientists who bought raffle tickets, received a text on her cell phone. She had won “The Big Basket” at the river fest. It is truly a fabulous basket. So, yes, it does get better than that.

The Case for Taking Action in the Face of Climate Change

This letter is addressed to all those who, like the ostrich, bury their head in the sand other dark places.  There, now that I have gotten that out of my system, it’s time to identify the challenges other than the obvious social and political ones.
For the sake of limiting this letter’s length I will include only the broad “weather conditions” that respond to climate variations.  The most obvious of these is temperature.  Because of rising global temperature, sea levels are rising and on land floods and droughts are becoming more prevalent.  Much of science requires those involved to study cause and effect.  That is, the scientific method requires identifying the problem.  In this case, it is observable climate changes. 
The most outstanding effect is a greater number of extreme weather occurrences in the temperate zones of the earth.  That is especially true in the northern hemisphere where a greater portion of temperate land mass is located.  Even if you’re not a climatologist, you know that the prevailing winds are from the west in the zone between the subtropical and arctic.  The rotation of the earth causes this to be so. 
Being a scientist is requires the gathering of evidence and developing a hypothesis.  A great number scientists are, and have been, doing detailed studies designed to discover the causes of observable climatic effects.  At a meeting I recently attended I heard it presented as a conundrum as follows:  What we do know, what we don’t know and what we need to know from both global and local perspectives.
We know the Earth’s temperature is rising.  That requires us to ask, is that somehow related to the tripling of weather related disasters since 1960?  Have the heat waves, droughts and forest fires increased in number and intensity as a result?  Is there the likelihood of superstorms like Sandy and Katrina occurring with greater frequency?  Lacking little evidence to the contrary, we must conclude the answer is, yes.
Some of the economic and social effects are grim.  Such things as storm damage, crop losses, public health emergencies and some lesser ones like allergies and respiratory distress.  A study of the costs of hurricane damage, real estate losses, energy costs and the cost of delivering drinkable water concluded that, left unchecked through the end of this century, would require an outlay of 1.9 trillion dollars annually in the United States.  The plain truth is that inaction, in the long run is going to cost more than taking remedial action now.  Pollution does not have to be fuel for our economy.  Dirty profits now will incur health expenses now and in the future.  Efforts to mitigate the carbon emissions are in effect and more are planned for in the future.  Those who deny there is a global crisis need to take their blinders off and remove their rose-colored glasses. The need to take an unbiased look at how we produce and use power.  After they have done that, the should be come part of the solution rather than being part of the problem.
On the local level, we have an entity called the Lakes Region Planning Commission.  In 1990 the put together a regional public utilities and infrastructure plan.  It was a survey and assessment of existing public services with an eye toward future modifications and improvements.  It was developed using a regional perspective with a view toward linking infrastructure across regional boundaries and encouraging cooperation and coordination between communities.  Fast forward twenty-five years and you can observe real progress.  There are many things we know, fewer things we don’t know but the list of things we need to know continues to grow.  Last week the Lakes Region Planning Commission held its 47th annual meeting.  Dr. Lindsey Rustag, author of the previously mentioned conundrum, asked those in attendance to think about what more they needed to know in order to take effective action, environmentally, in their communities.  Perhaps the most effective thing they could do is encourage others to help identify and mitigate problems.  Address needs with organized cooperative actions now and in the future.
Bill Dawson, Northfield

In Franklin, annual kayak run gives way to talk of urban renewal

By Jeremy Blackman, Monitor staff
Thursday, January 1, 2015 (Published in print: Friday, January 2, 2015)

A nice article about how a natural resource = a world class recreational site = economic development.