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Meredith, New Hampton working to purchase Snake River conservation land

June 30, 2010
MEREDITH — A collaborative effort between Meredith, New Hampton, and Waukewan shore owners to secure a piece of conservation land along the Snake River is gradually drawing to a successful close.

The Meredith and New Hampton Conservation Commissions as well as the Waukewan Shore Owners Association have been in extensive talks regarding the conservation of the a property in New Hampton along the Snake River.

The Snake River drains Lake Winona into Lake Waukewan, Meredith's drinking water supply. Conservation officials say the health of the Snake River is vital to the health of Lake Waukewan as it filters and flushes out toxins and pollution and evens out sediments. It is also a large area for beaver dams.

The property owned by Jaqueline Spear is seen as an important part of that health. The 8.57-acre land in New Hampton has around 2,841 feet of frontage to the Snake River.

A purchase and sale agreement was executed between Spear and the WSOA in April of this year.

In 2009, the Meredith Conservation Commission put forth two warrant articles to meet with two new state laws. The first, Article 5, enabled the Conservation Commission to make contributions to qualified organizations to purchase property or interests in property. Article 6 allowed the Conservation Commission to put funds and interest into land outside the town boundaries with potential interests along the Waukewan Watershed used as an example by Commissioners. Despite significant debate at town meeting, both articles passed by strong margins.

"It was kind of a fortuitous event that those two were passed overwhelmingly by the Meredith town meeting," said Meredith Conservation Commission Chair Don MacFarlane. "Because of that it was possible for us to make this invest in the protection of Meredith's water supply. This may be one of the first if not the first uses of those warrants in the state. Otherwise it wouldn't have been possible, wouldn't have been possible for us to invest in it."

That October, the Waukewan Shore Owners Association established their own Conservation Acquisition Fund to purchase land around the Lake Waukewan watershed deemed important.

The purchase price of the property is $30,000 minus a $1,000 deposit paid by the WSOA. The Meredith Conservation Commission will contribute $10,000 from their funds and the New Hampton Conservation Commission will contribute $5,000. The rest of the funding will come from private fundraising efforts by the WSOA.

Once the purchase is complete, New Hampton will own the land while Meredith will hold the easement.

The groups first brought the project to the Meredith Board of Selectmen during their workshop on June 7. On June 21, the board voted unanimously in favor of supporting the agreement.

"It is truly a collaborative effort of a lot of different parts," said Meredith Selectman Peter Brothers. "I just want to commend them for their effort and perseverance."

Selectman Colette Worsman said the area being preserved has a substantial impact on the watershed.

"We definitely want to thank the players," Worsman said.

The Meredith Conservation Commission voted in favor of the purchase during a public hearing on June 22. The New Hampton Conservation Commission will hold their public hearing on July 12.

MacFarlane said the final date when the project will be completed is "a moving target," though the process should be done by the beginning of August.

"It's a big step in the protection of our water supply," MacFarlane said.

Garnett Hill
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