The Upper Merrimack River Local Advisory Committee, affectionately known as UMRLAC (pronounced Uhm’-re-lack), marked its twenty-fifth anniversary this year with many and diverse activities 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 civic groups and to the public; and continuing its co-hosting with St. Paul’s School of the Winter Series Birckhead Science Lectures partnership.
Established in 1990, the UMRLAC represents its six communities of Boscawen, Bow, Canterbury, Concord, Franklin, and Northfield in state permit review by serving as the upper Merrimack River towns’ and cities’ advisory board through its 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 conducts the activities in it. The UMRLAC’s discretionary programs include a variety of studies, planning activities, and programs related to the upper Merrimack River and its watershed.
The UMRLAC continues to lead and manage the Upper Merrimack Monitoring Program (UMMP) as it entered its twentieth year in 2015. The UMMP 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 the summer, volunteers collect river water samples and 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. Thanks this year to sample couriers Anne Emerson, Canterbury and Bill Dawson, Northfield. These Concord-to-Franklin pick-up and drop-off runs, carried out by these volunteer sample couriers, 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 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. Thank you to Claudette Verville and Chantal McGuire for taking home bugs over the summer as “home work” to keep the program on track.
This year, the UMRLAC was fortunate to secure the services of an intern, Max Maynard, who is a student at the New Hampshire Technical Institute (NHTI) in Concord. Max had attended Bug Nights as well as participated in summer fieldwork. He wanted to go beyond his volunteering to provide more in-depth work as part of NHTI’s Capstone Project program. Max spent weeks reviewing macroinvertebrate and E. coli data, entering data into spreadsheets, and calculating metrics. He graphed data and formed recommendations for the UMMP as it moved into its twenty-first year of data collection and processing. Michele Tremblay and Steve Landry provided mentoring and attended his final presentation at NHTI. The UMRLAC looks forward to a presentation from Max at an UMRLAC meeting in early 2016 and his continued work at Bug Nights and during the spring and summer fieldwork.
The UMRLAC conducted a request for proposals for macroinvertebrate data analysis and production of photographic identification tools for the UMMP. The response was excellent and the UMRLAC selected Rhithron Associates in Montana. The firm provided a digital image library that will be used at Bug Nights and will expand as new organisms are discovered.
The UMRLAC is grateful to the NH Department of Environmental Services Volunteer River Assessment Program for servicing the UMMP water quality-testing meter. Thank you to UMMP volunteer Ken Edwardson, who provided a revised E. coli data entry and analysis tool for the UMMP. A technical information team will be reviewing the last twenty years of data to form recommendations for future monitoring.
This year, the UMRLAC was able to secure a small, rental storage area in Boscawen for its field and other equipment.
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, GZA Environmental, Inc., Nelson Analytical Lab, Eversource (formerly Public Service of New Hampshire, and Watts Regulator/Webster Valve. Current water quality data, generated by UMMP volunteers, are posted at www.MerrimackRiver.org.
The UMRLAC was proud to partner again this year with St. Paul’s School on the “UMRLAC Winter Community Program and SPS Birckhead Science Lecture Series” with an event featuring Michael J. Caduto, who presented “Bones of Stone: How New Hampshire’s Geology and Glaciology formed the Granite State.” The partnership is exploring program options for the 2016 event. 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 in the upper Merrimack. Reviews included Northern Pass throughout the UMRLAC area; an after-the-fact shoreland permit in Bow; alteration of terrain and wetlands permit applications for Amoskeag/New Hampshire Distributors in Bow and Concord; and alteration of terrain, wetlands, and shorelands permit applications for Sewalls Fall Bridge and a wetlands permit application for a boat launch in Concord. The UMRLAC continued to monitor the Federal Energy and Regulatory Commission applications and updates on the Eversource Merrimack Station at Garvins Falls and Eastman Falls facilities. UMRLAC representatives updated the committee’s review guidelines and created a form to assist with pre-review before meetings.
The UMRLAC continued to invite experts to present on a variety of issues to help representatives better understand complex issues and policies. This year, the UMRLAC hosted Steve Couture, Chair, Hooksett Conservation Commission, who discussed connectivity of conservation and agricultural lands in Hooksett; Brian Sullivan, City of Franklin Department of Public Works, who shared his experiences on stormwater utilities; Jim MacCartney, National Park Service, who provided information on Wild and Scenic rivers designation; Carrie Brewster, Cody Ferlow, Rachel Merrill, Tim Morrow, and Harvey Pine, students and faculty, Colby Sawyer College on the stormwater component of their Franklin community project; and Craig Tufts, Sam Durfree, and Steve Henninger, Central New Hampshire Regional Planning Commission, who presented the final versions of the impervious surface study maps and documents.
The impervious study was conducted with the UMRLAC as part of the Merrimack River Management and Implementation Plan. This study implements a major component of the Plan (Goal 14, pg. 19). Other components include a buffer and setback study and local ordinance study and matrix. UMRLAC representatives are contacting local land use boards in 2016 to schedule presentations of the study.
The UMRLAC continued to be a resource and provide technical assistance to Colby Sawyer College students with their practicum on the stormwater component of the City of Franklin downtown revitalization. The City of Franklin Mayor and Council voted unanimously to move forward with Wild and Scenic program designation for the portion of the river within the City’s boundaries. The program provides technical assistance, financial support, and other resources for municipal projects such as trails and public access, which dovetails well with the City’s downtown and other local revitalization and permaculture efforts. The UMRLAC is working with the National Park Service, City of Franklin municipal staff and elected officials, other partners, and the New Hampshire Congressional delegation on an Act of Congress relative to Wild and Scenic designation.
Michele Tremblay served on the NH Department of Environmental Services “Lean” efficiency process for local river management advisory committee permit review and commenting. The objective was to identify current process flow, areas where improvement is needed, and design new steps for the process. Many of the group’s process improvements were implemented within weeks and several others are planned for legislative and rule changes. The UMRLAC hosted its second New Hampshire Rivers Council River Runners™ training session this summer with over a dozen volunteers participating. Unfortunately, a new infestation of a non-native milfoil was confirmed in the upper Merrimack through DNA testing. The UMRLAC continues to support the New Hampshire Rivers Council and Friends of the Northern Rail Trail.
The UMRLAC welcomed Michael Hansen from Bow, Anne Dowling and Adrienne Hutchinson from Canterbury, and Gary Lemay from Concord, as the newest UMRLACers. The UMRLAC bid a reluctant farewell to retirees Anne Emerson and Nancy Roy from Canterbury. Anne and Nancy have served for many terms and their contributions and excellent reviews have been invaluable. The UMRLAC also recognized and thanked retiree Harry Anderson from Northfield. Harry served for many terms and was very active with permit reviews. At its annual meeting in November, the UMRLAC elected officers Michele Tremblay, Chair; Steve Landry, Vice-Chair, Krista Crowell, Treasurer; and Gary Lynn, Secretary. The UMRLAC is represented by Mike Hansen on the Brownfields Advisory Committee administered by the Central New Hampshire Regional Planning Commission.
UMRLAC representatives provided a thorough review of the NH Department of Environmental Services fact sheet on the upper Merrimack River. As part of its bi-ennial reporting to the New Hampshire General Court for 2013-2014, the UMRLAC documented over 20,543 hours of volunteer time to the people of the State of New Hampshire.
The Upper Merrimack River Local Advisory Committee was nominated and approved as a “1% for the Planet” nonprofit. This means that the UMRLAC can accept donations and other gifts from certified corporate members as part of their certification. The UMRLAC is working on the formation of a 501(c)(3) nonprofit to serve as its fiscal agent and programming organization.
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 2015. 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
Anne Emerson (retired)
Nancy Roy (retired)
Harry Anderson (retired)