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Meredith officials address concerns over low Waukewan water level

June 09, 2010
MEREDITH — Local officials are arranging a public meeting with the Department of Environmental Services regarding concerns that the water level of Lake Waukewan is too low.

Last year, the DES held a series of hearings regarding the level of Lake Waukewan after many lake residents said the water level was too high. As a result, the Dam Bureau implemented an interim operations plan maintaining the level of the lake at 539.5 feet.

Recently, selectmen said they have received complaints from lake residents that the low water level makes them unable to access their docks and navigate safely through canals and other areas, while many have raised concerns about the water level's impact on the lake ecology.

Town Manager Warren said a meeting took place with Jim Weber and Steve Doyon of the DES Dam Bureau, a meeting also attended by Board of Selectmen Chair Chuck Palm and Selectman Nate Torr, for discussions on the water level of Lake Waukewan.

"They made it very clear to us this is an interim decision, that they're getting information," Warren said. "For many of the items that were brought up by residents in town, the DES can counter them with benefits."

Warren said the DES made it clear that officials would be analyzing details and holding discussions to review decisions.

An appeal on the operations plan was filed by a group of landowners around Waukewan. Warren said the DES was concerned that it would not be able to conduct meetings and discussions with the appeal in progress, but were assured by the Attorney General's Office that they could go ahead with hearings and discussions.

Warren said he received an email from Meredith Rep. Kate Miller saying she and Rep. Fran Wendelboe wanted to hold a public meeting with DES on the Waukewan water level.

Warren said, in his view, it is an ideal option for state Senators and Representatives to hold such a meeting.

Palm said he stressed the point that there should be a meeting before the end of summer to include seasonal residents.

"I think it's important that we can convey to the public certainly it has been an issue for us as a board," said Selectman Peter Brothers, who said working with senators, representatives, and the executive councilor "is certainly encouraged."

Palm said discussions have been conducted with the Inter-Lakes School District about using the high school auditorium and/or gym as a venue for a meeting involving residents from five different towns including Meredith, Center Harbor, New Hampton, Ashland, and Holderness.

Since the implementation of the interim plan, town officials have emphasized that any complaints and concerns regarding the lake level need to be communicated with the state. Selectmen said, however, they understand the issues and do want to see more options.

"We should be exercising our muscle to speak for our citizens who are on the lake," said Selectman Miller Lovett. "I appreciate what the town is doing on this."

Lovett said the water level below what it had been for 10 to 20 years and said he did not understand how the DES drew those conclusions in its report. Palm said the initial concerns came about because last year's heavy summer rains resulted in water damage to properties because the water had no where else to go.

Selectman Colette Worsman wanted to know the number of people who attended the previous hearings and whether there was any concern that cyanobacteria had a greater chance of developing with the lower water level. Warren said he would look at the attendance for the meetings and speak with DES about the possibility of cyanobacteria.

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