DAVE FORD (standing) wrote down comments from the audience at the Oct. 30 hearing at Tuftonboro's old Town House pertaining to next steps in addressing erosion concerns along Lang Pond Road. Mirror Lake Watershed Committee members on the stage watch the proceedings (l-r): Don McWhirter, Guy Pike, Dusty Davies, Chairman Ted Wright, Ben Ladd and Jay Moody. (Elissa Paquette photo) (click for larger version)
November 07, 2013TUFTONBORO — Tuftonboro's Mirror Lake Watershed Committee opened up discussion on Oct. 30 at the old Town House on how to protect water quality while meeting the needs of residents and travelers along Lang Pond Road. The session, led by committee member David Ford, produced some previously unmentioned ideas for consideration.
Erosion along the ecologically sensitive section that traverses wetlands along the shoreline and its contribution to increasing phosphorus levels in the lake took center stage. The watershed management report produced for the Mirror Lake Protective Association, previously shared with the public at the Kingswood Arts Center, listed that area, which includes public access to the lake, as a priority.
The Board of Selectmen has extended its wetlands permit from the Department of Environmental Services and has employed Engineer Josh McAllister of the H.E. Bergeron Engineers to draw up plans to modify the road to address drainage and overflow concerns, but the half a million dollar price tag is considered by many members of the committee as too steep and the project itself as too drastic.
It was apparent in the course of the evening that there are numerous contributing factors involved in protecting what is currently deemed good water quality, each with varying degrees of impact.
There are the eight tons of sand and gravel that are applied to that section of the road in the course of maintenance each year, giving phosphorus (known to contribute to algal growth and reduced water clarity) a free ride into the water on the soil particles. Former selectman Bill Stockman said eight tons doesn't amount to much. "Some people put that much on their driveways," he commented.
Former road agent Steve Hunter said that during his tenure, he was able to stave off flooding by frequent clearing of beaver debris from the culverts. The effect of beaver activity was also mentioned in connection with a gradual 10 inch rise in water level over the years, a result of dam activity along Route 109, not far from the boat ramp. Once a free flowing area, it now is filled in with soil and vegetation.
The high water level impacts culvert design and raised the question of whether the area could be cleared out to allow water to flow into Lake Winnipesaukee across the road.
The impact of old sewer systems on nutrient levels came up, too, with Committee Chairman Ted Wright interjecting, "There's a 500 pound gorilla in the room. Jack Parsons (code officer) said there are 76 homes in Tuftonboro (along Mirror Lake) and only 31 have legitimate septic designs." He suggested that low interest loans to homeowners to improve their systems might help.
Bill Marcussen raised the idea of building a community septic system and creating a village district as another consideration.
Removal of tree canopies by logging raises the rate of water flow, which in turn accelerates erosion. The question of the impact of a combined 100 acres logged for the Hersey Family Trust last spring on both sides of the area under scrutiny prompted a comment by Ford that landowners have logging rights that can not be denied.
(The Board of Selectmen has since approved an intent to cut on another 85 acres owned by the Hersey Trust.)
John Simms, citing a study written up in Science magazine, concluded that there is no need to lower the phosphorus in the water for nitrates go up when phosphorus goes down. He questioned the likelihood of another cyanobacteria outbreak and posited that it might be just as well to do nothing.
Ford, who as Director of Public Works in Wolfeboro, is charged with wastewater treatment, responded, "We're spending millions of dollars to get our phosphorus levels down by state law. That makes no sense."
Conservation Commission member and Lay Lakes Monitoring Program volunteer Nancy Byrd waving the papers she had in hand containing raw water quality data from the University of New Hampshire program from 1976 to the present, called out, "That's not what the data shows. It's worse than 1980."
Wright asked if she would pass a copy of the report to the committee. Byrd agreed, but has said she still has some work to do to make the raw data readable.
Simms asked rhetorically, " If you had $ .5 million to spend, where would you put it?" and suggested that if the townsfolk were to spend that money on conservation easements to preserve the rural and natural environment, that would offer better protection in the long run.
"Yes, for the future, " said Selectman Dan Duffy, " but we have to consider the present."
The MLPA's watershed management report has made it clear that the phosphorus in the lake needs to be reduced by a pound. Tipping the scales in the other direction could be the straw that breaks the camel's back.
Wright thanked the audience for its time and said the committee would take the ideas generated under consideration. The committee will meet again on Nov. 13, at 6 p.m., at the town offices. The public is welcome to attend.