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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

NH legislators propose giving towns more say on water withdrawals

Please accept this as an article submission...

From the Eagle Tribune;

NH legislators propose giving towns more say on water withdrawals

By Eric Parry

ATKINSON — Two local representatives have filed bills in the state Legislature that would give towns more control over large water withdrawals in their communities.

Rep. Mary Allen, R-Newton, has filed a bill that would allow towns to have an impact study paid for by the developer. The state would notify the town when an application has been filed and the town would hire its own hydrogeologist.

"This way, towns officially know they can do something," Allen said.

Currently, towns are notified of applications sent to the state Department of Environmental Services, but they are never given any explanation as to how they can impact the process. The DES eventually makes the decision whether to allow water companies to withdraw the water.

Another bill, filed by Rep. James Garrity, R-Atkinson, would give towns even more power. The bill would allow communities to file local rules that regulate large groundwater withdrawals. Large groundwater withdrawals are classified as more than 57,600 gallons a day.

Atkinson resident John Wolters, who spoke in favor of Garrity's bill at a hearing in Concord last week, said he supports the bill because it gives local residents more power through the process.

"They have the power to deem what's in our best interest," Wolters said of DES.

It's not that DES does a bad job regulating water withdrawals, it's just that residents and towns feel they are ignored by the state, Allen said.

"This lets everyone in the area know what could happen," Allen said.

DES would still continue to do its own geological testing before deciding on the application, Allen said.

Wolters is one of two residents to ask the state Public Utilities Commission to deny Hampstead Area Water Co.'s request to borrow money from the state. Atkinson selectmen and resident Carol Grant filed similar requests to the Public Utilities Commission.

The water company applied for a $1.1 million loan to connect Atkinson's water system with Hampstead's over the summer. If the loan is awarded, 15,000 feet of pipe would be laid between the two towns. First, the Public Utilities Commission has to allow the water company to take the loan and increase its rates.

The Public Utilities Commission held a hearing in November on the issue, but has yet to issue a ruling.

Allen and Wolters said their concern about large water withdrawals is that they could have a negative effect on residents wells.

"We have no municipal water system here," Allen said.

Both towns have passed regulations regarding water withdrawals in the last year.

The Newton Planning Board passed new rules that would require the town to review applications for water withdrawals before they are submitted to the state. In Atkinson, a special town meeting was held in September where residents approved beefed-up local regulations regarding large groundwater withdrawals.

January 29, 2009 4:44 PM


Anonymous said...

In the former blog I was accused of being an Anarchist because I said I did not trust the NH DES to protect my interests.

Since then we've learned that it was the DES that prodded HAWC into drilling their new wells and opening urged them to apply for a state loan to build a pipeline to ship that water out of Atkinson. Then, the DES had the audacity not to appear at the PUC hearing for said loan. Still think I'm an Anarchist?

At the Special Town Meeting last August a number of members of the Planning Board (view the Paul DiMaggio video) and our old friend, Jack Sapia (see his video also) claimed that passage of the three water warrants would lead to costly lawsuits against the town, presumably to be filed by HAWC.

Well, guess what. If these changes to the state law are made, there will be no question that they are legal. What is the Planning Board's argument now? We are picking on Harold?

Maybe Harold will speak to us now.

Curt Springer said...

HERE is the text of the bill.

Last year HB 1353 was filed to give towns veto power over large groundwater withdrawals. But it was completely rewritten by amendment to refer the matter of local control to an existing study commission on groundwater withdrawal with a due date of 11/30/09 for their report back to the legislature.

I wonder how this new bill relates to that.