Instream Flow protection under RSA 483
Instream public uses are defined as including the flow-dependent components of navigation, recreation, fishing, conservation, maintenance and enhancement of aquatic life, fish and wildlife habitat, protection of water quality and public health, pollution abatement, aesthetic beauty, public water supply, and hydropower production.
New law establishes Instream Flow Protection Pilot Program
In 2002, a broad coalition of New Hampshire business and conservation interests joined together to enact compromise legislation which became Chapter 278, Laws of 2002 (from House Bill 1449-A) that calls for a pilot program for instream flow protection on two of the fourteen designated rivers - the Lamprey River in the coastal watershed and the Souhegan River in the Merrimack watershed. With the advice and input of the statewide Rivers Management Advisory Committee (RMAC), DES adopted Instream Flow Rules (Env-Ws 1900) effective May 29, 2003 that apply to the Souhegan and Lamprey Rivers. The rules describe the process for conducting a Protected Instream Flow study and developing a Water Management Plan to implement the study results. If the pilot program is successful, the rules would be amended before they could be applied to other Designated Rivers.
Funding for the Souhegan River Pilot Study
The NH Legislature provided funding in September, 2003 for one of the pilot studies. The funding legislation also revised the deadlines in Chapter 278, Laws of 2002. The Souhegan River Protected Instream Flow study will begin with the convening of an Instream Flow Technical Review Committee and a Water Management Planning Area Advisory Committee for the Souhegan.
Funding for the Lamprey River
At the initiative of Senator Judd Gregg, Congress appropriated $600,000 for New Hampshire's Instream Flow Program. The funding comes to New Hampshire as a grant from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric through the National Marine Fisheries Service. DES will receive $545,000 most of which will be used to fund the Lamprey River consulting contract to conduct the Protected Instream Flow Study and develop the Water Management Plan. The grant will also fund some of DES' administrative and technical work implementing the Instream Flow Rules and the state statutes governing the Instream Flow Process.
Main provisions of Session Law 2002, Chapter 278:
- Establishes a pilot program for instream flow protection on the Lamprey and Souhegan rivers;
- Directs the Department to adopt rules for the pilot program;
- establishes and specifies membership of an Instream Flow Technical Review Committee for each river. The Commissioner, in consultation with the Rivers Management Advisory Committee (RMAC), appoints members;
- Establishes and specifies membership of a Water Management Planning Area Advisory Committee for each river. Members are nominated by the Commissioner, in consultation with the RMAC, appointed by the Governor, and approved by the Executive Council;
- Requires completion of water management plan studies for both rivers and a subsequent public hearing;
- Specifies adoption and implementation of the protected flows and water management plans for the pilot rivers;
- Requires a public hearing one year after implementation of the water management plan;
- Requires completion of a report by the Department on the impacts on water users, wildlife, recreation, and other interests along the rivers, recommendations for proposed legislation and a summary of public comments received; and
The Instream Flow Rules are made up of the following components:
- The purpose and applicability of the rules (Part Env-Ws 1901)
- The definitions (Part Env-Ws 1902)
- A General Standard and a De-minimus Flow Amount (Part Env-Ws 1903)
- The Water Management Plan (WMP) areas and process sequence required (Part Env-Ws 1904)
- The components of a Protected Instream Flow (PISF) study (Part Env-Ws 1905)
- The process for public review and comment of a PISF study (Env-Ws 1905.03)
- The process for establishing the protected flows based on a PISF study (Env-Ws 1905.04)
- The components of a WMP (Part Env-Ws 1906)
- The elements of a WMP (Env-Ws 1906.01)
- The process for public review and comment of a WMP (Env-Ws 1906.06)
- The process for adopting a WMP (Env-Ws 1906.07)
- The administration of WMPs (Part Env-Ws 1907)
- A waiver process (Part Env-Ws 1908)
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