Upper Merrimack Monitoring Program
One of the key actions identified in Upper Merrimack River Local Advisory Committee’s (UMRLAC) Management and Implementation Plan was the initiation of a volunteer water quality monitoring program. With the enthusiastic encouragement and experience of committee member, volunteer and NH Department of Environmental Services’ (NHDES) aquatic biologist Steve Landry, the committee decided to go forward with the program. Realizing that the committee had no funding to initiate a program, UMRLAC entered into a unique cooperative agreement between the UMRLAC, NHDES and the Merrimack River Watershed Council and in 1995, the Upper Merrimack Monitoring Program (UMMP) was born. Since then, the Upper Merrimack Watershed Association now manages the UMMP.
In its first year, the program included sampling sites on the Pemigewasset, Winnipesaukee and Contoocook Rivers and on the Merrimack River from Franklin to the confluence of the Contoocook and Merrimack Rivers in Boscawen. In 1996, the program was expanded to include sites on the Merrimack in Concord and Bow south to Garvin’s Falls. A total of seventeen sites have now been identified for water sampling and macroinvertebrate (nymph and larval stage aquatic insects and crustaceans) collection. Click here to use the interactive map and river quality data tool.
Water samples are collected by volunteers every other week for eight to ten weeks. The samples are analyzed for E. coli bacteria at no charge by the Franklin Wastewater Treatment Facility [click here for further information about E. coli bacteria]. Rock baskets are also placed at each site. These wire baskets containing artificial substrate (uniformly sized and shaped rocks) are collected after six to eight weeks on the river bottom. During that time, macroinvertebrates colonize the rocks. After identification, their quantity, health and diversity provides a comprehensive, long term picture of a river’s health. The program’s data (using the UMMP’s EPA-approved Quality Assurance / Quality Control plan) is shared with the Volunteer Environmental Monitoring Network and the NH Department of Environmental Services for inclusion in 305(b) reports and the Biology Bureau’s Bioassessment Program. The results for the first three years cans be found in State of the Upper Merrimack 1995-1997, a river quality report.
Outreach and Partnerships
The Upper Merrimack Monitoring Program’s success is due to its many partnerships and volunteers ranging from grade school and high school students to retired citizens including:
- Aries Engineering, Inc.
- Elektrisola, Inc.
- Essex Power Services
- Franklin High School (students and faculty)
- Franklin Savings Bank
- Franklin Wastewater Treatment Plant
- GZA GeoEnvironmental, Inc.
- Manchester Fly Fishing Club
- Nelson Analytical Lab
- NH Department of Environmental Services
- Notre Dame College (students and faculty)
- Granite Shore Power
- St. Paul’s School (students and faculty)
- Trout Unlimited, Basil W. Woods Jr. Chapter
- Volunteer Environmental Monitoring Network
- Webster Valve/ Watts Regulator, Inc.
- The Towns of Boscawen, Bow, Canterbury, and Northfield; and the Cities of Concord and Franklin
Although the UMMP follows strictly its Quality Assurance/Quality Control Plan (so that its data are accepted by regulatory and enforcement agencies), its educational component is also a great strength of the program. Representatives from UMMP present frequently to schools, civic organizations, and at local and regional conferences. Hands-on demonstrations for students and other citizens are held throughout the watershed. Each winter, macroinvertebrate identification workshops are taught by UMMP and hosted by Saint Paul’s School and Franklin High School. Students and other interested volunteers are provided free training in family-level macroinvertebrate identification. This has also served to define volunteer-generated data. Replicates processed by a professional laboratory have consistently shown the high-quality work of volunteers.
In 1995 and 1996, the Upper Merrimack Monitoring Program received two grants from the Merrimack River Initiative Local Involvement Grant Program. The funds enabled the committee to purchase equipment and supplies to assure the self-sufficiency and continuation of the program. In 1998, the UMMP was awarded a Nonpoint Source Local Involvement Grant from the NH Department of Environmental Services. This grant will fund data analysis and report generation for the program’s work from 1995-1997, creation of an identification key for volunteer training, a data presentation and volunteer recognition event, a newsletter and brochure. Additional fundraising is ongoing to expand the program’s chemical analysis as well as expenses in equipment enhancements and supply replacement. Fundraising efforts include the “Adopt-a-River Site” Program to generate support and foster individual stewardship. The UMWA also seeks yearly support from the communities that it represents.
Other Local River Management Advisory Committees, watershed associations, non-profit groups and schools have requested the UMMP’s assistance in initiating their own programs. While not a service provider, UMMP helps these groups as well as working with college, high school and junior high school faculty to integrate the program into their curricula with UMMP field trips, identification sessions, and hands-on field work. It is the goal of the Upper Merrimack Watershed Association to maintain the UMMP as a community resource to monitor water quality and to provide education and public awareness of the upper Merrimack River.