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Watershed project moves into second phase


July 14, 2010
BRIDGEWATER — The excitement among those in attendance was palpable last week, as the team behind the Newfound Watershed Master Plan unveiled plans to move the project forward into its second phase.

Spearheaded by the Newfound Lake Region Association (NLRA), the watershed plan, titled "Every Acre Counts," has evolved over the past three years from a vision shared by a small group of area residents to an extensive, long-range effort to preserve the water quality that Newfound Lake has become known for.

The plan seeks to provide a comprehensive analysis of the Newfound watershed, identify threats to watershed resources, and create methods to help guide future planning and regulatory initiatives to maintain and improve environmental quality for the future.

Welcoming audience members to a special presentation at Bridgewater's town offices on July 7 that marked the launch of the project's second phase, NLRA Director Boyd Smith said the question he hears most often is why a master plan for the watershed is necessary.

The team of experts assembled to help design and implement the plan, he explained, were spurred on by the "strong public mandate" they saw in the widespread local support for their efforts.

A plan for the watershed is also necessary, he said, because in the Newfound region, where water-based recreation generates millions of dollars a year in revenue from tourism, the environment and the economy are closely linked.

Water also "doesn't recognize a town boundary," he added, explaining that any one community's impact on the watershed could have repercussions for the entire region.

Having utilized the $184,000 in grant funding they received from the state Department of Environmental Services (DES) last year (along with an additional $160,000 in matching funds from local donors) to initiate the first phase of the project — which primarily involved data collection — Smith said the watershed team members are set to receive another $128,000 in federal grants and $110,000 in matching funds this year to begin Phase II — the implementation of the recommendations they developed last year.

If all goes well, he added, the project should be complete by 2012.

One by one, Smith invited team members to present brief overviews of the project's various components, which include the development of a storm water mitigation system designed to prevent erosion and keep runoff from entering the lake at Cummings Beach in Bristol.

A Plymouth State University student described his efforts to locate culverts throughout the watershed, assess them for effective storm water management, habitat connectivity, and threats to their infrastructure, and compile a prioritized list of problematic culverts that will be passed along to local select boards, road agents, and planning boards

Bob Craycraft of the UNH Cooperative Extension said he had spent the past year testing water quality in several locations around the periphery of Newfound Lake to determine what is being propelled into the lake.

His greatest concern, he said, was phosphorous, which can seep into the lake through the application of fertilizers to waterfront lawns or through erosion.

During Phase II of the watershed project, Craycraft said he planned to expand his range into the further reaches of the streams and tributaries surrounding the lake.

Team coordinator Steve Whiitman of Concord-based Jeffrey L. Taylor & Associates laid out the five strategies the team has developed for implementing its vision of a watershed where quality of life and economic vitality are fostered by stewardship and sustainable use of the area's natural resources; where land uses and development are balanced with conservation; and where the current quantity and quality of water are maintained.

Among those strategies, he said, are the creation of sound land use plans in each watershed community that achieve the vision of both the community and the watershed; the prevention of phosphorous and other pollutants from reaching surface waters through local land use regulations and best management practices; guiding development away from riparian buffers, wetlands, steep slopes, and other critical resources; the strategic pursuit of conservation opportunities to protect the ecological health and natural beauty of the watershed; and the creation of a sense of stewardship by providing education opportunities for students, land owners, and visitors.

The key to implementing all of those strategies, Whitman explained, will be convincing officials in watershed communities to adopt "Every Acre Counts" as an amendment to their own master plans and make changes within their own site plan and subdivision regulations and master plans that will bring their communities in line with the vision expressed in "Every Acre Counts."

As the first step in that process, Whitman encouraged audience members to start thinking about potential watershed protection projects in their own towns, and to let their local officials know about the resources available to them through the watershed project.

Each of the communities comprising the Newfound watershed, he said, will be asked to attend a region-wide meeting some time in the fall (most likely in September) to discuss what aspects of "Every Acre Counts" they might be interested in.

"Come to the table and tell us what you want to work on," he said, adding that there will be help available to communities who need it in order to revise their master plans and regulations, but only if they actively seek it out.

Looking ahead to the next step in the process, Smith said his focus in the coming months will be on increasing communication and community involvement in the hope of fostering what he called "positive deviance" — a recognition on the part of people throughout the watershed that just as the problems that impact the environment start with individual actions, the solutions can often be found through changes that individuals make in their own behavior.

More information on "Every Acre Counts" can be found on the NLRA's Web site, www.newfoundlake.org.

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