The science behind current water resource management principles is ever-changing and constantly being refined as new research is being completed. The ongoing research leads to a better understanding and the development of new methods or tools to assess how land-use practices and human activities might affect water quality and quantity within a watershed. As a result, the existing policies, regulations, and practices used to protect our water resources are frequently updated. The most recent examples include the current draft regulation changes to the Alteration of Terrain (AoT) Program, Instream Flow and Shoreland Protection Act (adopted in July 2007 and will become effective April 2008). As practitioners, advocates, and educators, it is important for UMRLAC to continually monitor new research findings and participate in the development of proposed regulatory changes and the tools used to measure impacts on water quality and quantity.
The goal of protecting water quality and quantity will continually be met new challenges as the population grows and the demand for land development increases within the watershed. The conversion of land to impervious surfaces (e.g., roads, roofs, parking lots, sidewalks) in developing areas has rapidly become one of the largest threats to stream water quality and integrity. As impervious areas increase through land development, so does the volume and rate of runoff entering nearby waterbodies. Studies have shown that there can be notable adverse effects on the biological, chemical, and physical characteristics of streams and rivers as the imperviousness of a watershed area increases above 10 percent (Booth and Reinelt, 1993, Schueler, 1994, Deacon et. al., 2005). As mentioned above, many new local, state, and federal regulations have recently been adopted or in the process being updated in response to these findings. The general regulatory approaches used to minimize and reduce these impacts include the use of both structural and non-structural Best Management Practices (BMPs). Non-structural BMPs focus on reducing the generation of runoff through Low Impact Development strategies (e.g., porous pavement, green roofs, disconnected impervious areas), pursuing conservation land easements, and open space acquisitions as well as the various zoning restrictions related to development density, lot imperviousness, buffers, and setbacks. Structural measures or BMPs rely on more traditional end-of-pipe treatment measures such as oil and grease traps, detention basins, wet ponds, grassed swales, and gravel wetlands. The Draft revisions to the AoT regulations include a provision to require a pre and post-construction pollutant loading assessment for all major projects subject to the AoT regulations.
Equally as important, will be the development of restoration plans for river segments that are already considered impaired or degraded due to previous development, other land use activities or hydrologic flow alterations. Recently, NHDES has targeted available grant funding and research to restore water bodies impaired by excessive algal growth, channel modifications, diminished water quality or flow alterations.
GOAL 1: The upper Merrimack River and its tributaries maintain or exceed their statutory designated uses so that its citizens and visitors can enjoy swimming, fishing, boating, and its communities can depend on reliable clean water sources.
OBJECTIVE: WQ-1 – The UMRLAC will monitor and prioritize state and federal legislation and rules that affect watershed management in the upper Merrimack region and draft comment letters and provide testimony to support water quality.
- Seek opportunities to participate in NHDES rule development committees (e.g., Alteration of Terrain and Shoreland Protection Act committees).
- Designate an UMRLAC member to monitor key state and federal web sites or contact key personnel on pending rule changes and update full committee at regular meetings.
- Monitor legislative review documents to identify upcoming proposed legislation.
OBJECTIVE: WQ-2 – By end of 2008, all upper Merrimack River public and local officials will be aware of the UMRLAC and the resources that it provides for improving water quality through a meeting with each community at least once per year or by convening training and other events.
- Contact local Planning Boards in UMR communities to attend one of their meetings for informational purposes to discuss and share UMMP results, Management Plan recommendations, and survey results comparing zoning ordinances, subdivision, and site plan requirements in each of the communities.
- Schedule a follow-up meeting in 2009 or 2010 to share results of additional data gathering efforts conducted as part of this management plan.
OBJECTIVE: WQ-3 – Encourage consistency in the water quality protection measures and requirements included in local ordinances within the upper Merrimack communities, so that they all have strong, enforceable watershed protection and water quality ordinances in place by 2010.
Coordinate and work with Planning Boards in UMR communities to encourage the inclusion and adoption of NHDES’s recent Draft Stormwater Model Ordinance on Stormwater Management (April 2007; see listing in Appendix C) in local ordinances and site plan and subdivision regulations to enhance water quality protection measures for future development.
- By the end of 2008, compile and make available on merrimackriver.org, a simple guide or other reference documents regarding Best Management Practices targeted to the upper Merrimack communities with particular emphasis on any new NHDES regulations (e.g., AoT Rules, Comprehensive Shoreland Protection Act).
- By mid-2009, update and distribute a new State of UMR River Quality Report summarizing recent findings and other relevant information (e.g., water quality, macroinvertebrate data, impervious area estimates) to educate local officials on current conditions and needs for new protection measures.
GOAL 2: Restore those portions of the upper Merrimack River and its tributaries that are not meeting their statutory designated uses so that its citizens and visitors can enjoy swimming, fishing, boating, and its communities can depend on reliable clean water sources.
OBJECTIVE: WQ-4 – y mid-2008, all stream reaches or other waterbodies in the upper Merrimack watershed that are listed as impaired on the NH Department of Environmental Services 303(d) list are prioritized for restoration and specific corrective measures identified.
- Encourage the development or obtain existing higher resolution aerial photography to identify potential sources of runoff, especially in reaches identified as not supporting their designated uses.
- Work with NHDES to generate a map and data tables containing assessment information and impairments for the upper Merrimack River and its tributaries.
- Coordinate and participate in the review of the planned upper Merrimack River and Pemigewasset River Study to be directed by NHDES over the next three years from 2007 to 2009, which includes dry and wet weather sampling and modeling pollutant loading along various reaches.
- Expand UMMP to increase number of parameter and/or include smaller tributaries to bracket known “hot spots” or verify suspected source areas in reaches not supporting their designated uses especially due to elevated bacteria levels.
- Create a map delineating and quantifying the extent of impervious surfaces within each sub-watershed based on GRANIT land use data layer information. Identify watersheds having the largest percent imperviousness and those nearing thresholds that have been found to lead to water quality impacts.
- Conduct a baseline annual pollutant loading analysis on a sub-watershed basis using the Center for Watershed Protection “Simple Method” procedure
- Investigate continuation of “dry” and “wet weather” sampling conducted in (UM & PR) Study in key locations.
- Using existing GIS data layers, identify and provide relative ranking of key areas that have the highest development potential based on road access, development trends, soils, slopes, and other conditions.
- Coordinate with CNHRPC and LRRPC to evaluate results of recent or pending build-out analyses.
OBJECTIVE: WQ-5 – By early 2010, create a restoration plan that identifies, prioritizes, and list sources for funding to implement additional planning, monitoring, and restoration studies or measures to protect water quality and/or aquatic habitat conditions.
- Identify and evaluate any similar ongoing or completed restoration plan approaches in other regions of the state.
- Identify principal goals and objectives of a restoration plan based on the most recent understanding of the sources, listed impairments and extent of the problem.
- Align UMMP sampling, analytical and reporting procedures with NHDES’s Consolidated Assessment Listing Methodology (CALM) for common parameters (e.g., dissolved oxygen, bacteria).
- Identify potential sources of funding and in technical assistance in developing and completing the Plan.
- Identify areas in local regulations that could be strengthened and improved to assist restoration and preserve future stream integrity conditions.