IV. Summary and Recommendations
The Cold River supports a variety of significant state and local resources. To better protect and manage these resources, the Department of Environmental Services recommends the following actions:
Recommendation 1: The General Court should adopt legislation which designates the Cold River into the Rivers Management and Protection Program and classifies the Cold River as follows:
a. As a "rural river" from the outlet of Crescent Lake Dam in Acworth 20.3 miles to the most downstream crossing of the Langdon/Walpole town line, and
b. As a "community river" from the most downstream crossing of the Langdon/Walpole town line 2.1 miles to its confluence with the Connecticut River in Walpole.
Under the provisions of RSA 483, designation of the River will provide increased protection against the construction of new dams, damaging channel alterations, water quality impairment, and the siting of solid and hazardous waste facilities in the river corridor. Designation will also require the establishment of a protected instream flow to maintain water for instream public uses including water quality, fisheries, recreation, and scenic values. A local river management advisory committee will be established to coordinate management and protection of the River at the local and regional levels, and will provide the residents in the riverfront communities with a direct avenue for formal input into state decisions affecting the River. Finally, designation will result in the development of a long-range management plan for the River that coordinates state planning and management of fisheries, water quality and quantity, and recreation.
The upper reaches of the Cold River from the outlet of Crescent Lake to the most downstream crossing of the Langdon/Walpole town line, including the impoundment at Vilas Pool, are being recommended for "rural river" classification. Rural rivers are defined under RSA 483 as "...those rivers or segments adjacent to lands which are partially or predominantly used for agriculture, forest management and dispersed or clustered residential development. Some instream structures may exist, including low dams, diversion works and other minor modifications." The Cold River, as it flows through the forests, wetlands, and farmlands of the predominantly undeveloped upper river corridor, clearly meets the definition of a rural river. While the Friends of the Cold River originally nominated the river segment at Vilas Pool for community classification, the Rivers Management Advisory Committee and the Department of Environmental Services believe that this segment, like the rest of the upper river, tends to be rural in character. After consulting with the Town of Alstead and the Friends of the Cold River, the Department has determined that the segment best meets the definition of a rural river and should be so designated.
The lower reach of the Cold River from the most downstream crossing of the Langdon/Walpole town line to its confluence with the Connecticut River is being recommended for "community river" classification. Community rivers are defined under RSA 483 as "...those rivers or segments which flow through developed or populated areas of the state and which possess existing or potential community resource values, such as those identified in official municipal plans or land use controls. Such rivers have mixed land uses in the corridor reflecting some combination of open space, agricultural, residential, commercial and industrial land uses." The lower reach of the Cold River, with its mix of adjacent land use, clearly meets this classification.
Designation of Cold River under the Rivers Management and Protection Program will express the intent of the General Court regarding its future management and protection, and will focus attention on the River as a natural resource of both statewide and local significance. This attention will help to ensure greater scrutiny of plans or proposals which have the potential to significantly alter or destroy those river values and characteristics which qualify the entire Cold River for designation.
Recommendation 2: The towns of Acworth, Lempster, Alstead, Langdon, and Walpole should continue to work together toward the protection of the Cold River through the adoption and implementation of a local river corridor management plan.
While legislative designation of the Cold River will improve the protection and management of the River itself, continuing efforts at the local level will be needed to address the use and conservation of the river corridor. A growing recognition by local citizens and officials of the Cold River's valuable contribution to the overall quality of life in their communities is evidenced by their desire to see it designated into the Rivers Management and Protection Program. Citizen appreciation and concern for the River should be reflected in the decisions and actions of local officials. The Department of Environmental Services will provide technical assistance to the local river management advisory committee and to the local officials in the riverfront communities on the development and implementation of a local river corridor management plan.
In summary, the establishment of a clear policy and specific instream protection measures by the General Court, and a continuing commitment on the part of local governments and residents to protect and manage the river corridor through sound land use decisions will ensure that the outstanding resources of the Cold River will endure as part of the river uses to be enjoyed by the people of New Hampshire.