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Joyce Endee

DES requests more information for Meadows project

August 12, 2009
The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services filed a request for more information from the Gilford School Board and the Meadows Advisory Committee on the Meadows project in order to clarify and thoroughly address specific questions for completion of the Standard Dredge and Fill application reviewed by DES last week.

The School Board is looking to develop the land, given to the town as a gift from the Carey Family of Gilford for athletic purposes. After an appeal submitted in May by the Conservation Committee seeking help from the Board of Selectmen, both the committee and the board asked the school district to hold off on its application to DES until more testing was done. The Meadows is known to flood, and the project may have a damaging impact on the environment, the groups contended. However, the MAC submitted the application despite those concerns, and DES has deemed it incomplete.

If a complete application, including an expansion on the 18 questions requested by DES for the MAC, is not submitted by Sept. 29, DES will deny the Standard Dredge Fill request, and the new facility, expanded athletic fields, parking, and concession stands, will not have the go ahead at that point in time.

The proposed Meadows project has faced conflict since this January, when DES set new requirements for permit applications that are more complicated and extensive than those in 2008. The School Board submitted its application days before the change, yet they must follow the new rules of 2009.

In May, the MAC received contingent approval of the application for the Alteration of Terrain Permit, yet the Conservation Committee feared this permit would not be effective in making sure the MAC met the committee's environmental concerns. Concerns include the assumption that the Meadows land has changed since the application process began, and that the wetlands may not be drained properly or efficiently.

Along with DES, Conservation Committee chair John Goodhue feels that the Standard Drudge and Fill application has not been responded to in full effort or detail.

"Obviously the application is incomplete. There is not enough information to go ahead. They had 60 days to put it out and they didn't. Our concern is reiterated in those three pages (of DES's response). We have grave concerns over the Meadows and it is time Gilford residents be aware of these concerns. This is public information and the bulk of people in the town of Gilford are concerned about the Meadows," said Goodhue.

Chair of the Board of Selectmen Gus Benavides said that the selectmen are not against the use for the Meadows project whatsoever, but they feel it is their job to be on the lookout for the environment.

"My children play on the field. As a resident and a parent, I approve of what the MAC is trying to do," Benavides said. "In a second stance as a selectman, I am trying to make sure the environmental impact is as little as possible. The concern is that the terrain is altered. Where will the water go, into Lake Winnipesaukee or neighbor's yards?"

The hydrology test required by DES will take a while, yet it is necessary to see where the water is going, said Benavides.

Within the last few weeks, the Board of Selectmen and the Conservation Committee have filed an appeal with a town attorney regarding the use of the Meadows and foresee the project being drawn out because of this process.

Clarification requests made by DES as a result of the MAC's response to the Standard Dredge and Fill application include questions and concerns over topics such as wetland delineations, inconsistent delineations and wetland boundaries, groundwater monitoring wells and under drain systems, adequate hydrology and hydrology parameters, vegetation parameters, onsite alternatives, facility size, flood zones, and pesticide concerns.

Martin Lord & Osman
Salmon Press
Varney Smith
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