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F&G director defends Wild Goose plan

October 22, 2009
CONCORD — New Hampshire Fish & Game Director Glenn Normandeau was on the firing line for more than two hours Tuesday responding to scores of questions directed his way during an informational meeting on the proposal by his department to construct a boat ramp at Wild Goose on Lake Sunapee.

After being grilled by four state legislators on the panel, Normandeau got a pat on the back from state Senator Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, a supporter of the Wild Goose plan in Newbury. "You have the patience of Job," Bradley said, referring to the line of questions directed at Normandeau.

A House and Senate Committee of Conference previously authorized Tuesday's informational session.

At that meeting, an amendment was approved to establish a five-member committee to study the Wild Goose issue and report back on its findings no later than Nov. 1.

Following Tuesday's meeting, State Senator Martha Fuller Clark, D-Portsmouth, chairman of the state Senate Energy, Environment and Economic Development Committee, said she did not anticipate the committee would hold any additional meetings.

"If we were to receive a request for additional public information session we would hold it. The intent is to make sure all interested parties have access to appropriate and relevant information on this issue," she said.

At the outset of the meeting in the Legislative Office Building, Normandeau gave each panel member a thick set of paperwork covering the historic aspects of the Wild Goose plan.

"Everything in this is out of the record to give you an idea of what has gone on for the past 19 years," he said.

Fuller Clark then took over and carefully outlined the guidelines she intended to follow. "This is not a public hearing; we're not here to debate the pros and cons. Speeches or debate will be ruled out of order," she told the gathering of 40, many of them supporting the Lake Sunapee Protective Association's stand against the boat launch site at Wild Goose.

The Fish & Game Department has already received approval of its three permits from the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services that are all being appealed by the LSPA. They include permits covering wetlands, alteration of terrain and shoreland protection.

"If the appeals are denied, the losing party can then go to the New Hampshire Supreme Court," Normandeau said.

That process could be lengthy, according to Normandeau. "I'm thinking 18 months for the appeals process," he said. "Based on my past experience, it could drag out for two years." He assured the panel members there would be no construction started in the meantime.

He said the boat access fund now has approximately $2.5 million on hand. "It goes up and down with use as needed," the fish and game director said. The access fund receives $5 from each boat registration in New Hampshire, Normandeau revealed. He pegged the cost of the boat ramp construction at Wild Goose will run between $1.2 and $1.5 million.

Rep. Judith Spang, D-Durham, chairman of the House Resources, Recreation and Development Committee, asked Normandeau why his department is willing to spend money on Lake Sunapee instead of other New Hampshire lakes that have less access. "The demand seems to be more than adequately filled," she said, referring to Lake Sunapee.

"Our focus is to get a state site on all of our lakes," Normandeau replied. He also mentioned a petition with 2,000 signatures supporting Wild Goose access.

Rep. Jim McClammer, D-Charlestown, grabbed Normandeau's attention when he asked the director if he was related in any way to Normandeau Associates, a firm involved in environmental work at the Wild Goose site.

"My father started the company in 1969 and sold it in 1988," Normandeau shot back. That was long before he became New Hampshire Fish & Game Director, Normandeau added. "That money was going to a company my dad owned 22 years ago. Put a spike in it," he continued.

June Fichter, executive director of the LSPA, asked Normandeau if it would be possible to have a third party "look at this whole idea."

"We're in the third party now with the appeal's process," Normandeau responded.

Rep. Andrew Renzullo, R-Hudson, asked a representative of the DES if all requirements had been met when the shoreline protection permit was approved. The answer was "yes."

Spang suggested if a private person had applied for this permit and cleared 37 percent of their land, the permit would never have been approved. "Why was the permit given to the state? It doesn't look to me like the permit meets the provision of this RSA chapter," she said.

"That question will be answered in the appeals process," the DES representative replied.

As in past meetings, the Wild Goose access to Route 103 came up for questioning.

"Is the Department of Transportation going to review it or relook at traffic patterns?" asked Fuller Clark.

"I can't speak for the DOT," Normandeau said.

McClammer asked if the concerns of the Town of Newbury had been heard as far as the permits went. "When the permits are issued I would be willing to sit down with Newbury. I don't know that we have anything to talk about at this time," Normandeau said.

Reggie Dodge of Newport, a lifelong Lake Sunapee fisherman, asked the final question from the audience and called on his longevity to frame his thoughts.

"I've gone to all of these meetings for 20 years and nothing has happened. "I'm 65 today and I'm hoping to go home with a birthday present," he said.

He didn't.

Matin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
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