IV. Summary and Recommendations
As it flows from Franklin to Garvins Falls, the Upper Merrimack 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 Upper Merrimack River from the confluence of the Winnipesaukee and Pemigewasset Rivers to Garvins Falls in the town of Bow into the Rivers Management and Protection Program and classifies the segment as a "Rural River."
Under the provisions of HB 1432-FN (1990), a rural river designation will provide increased protection for the river against new dam construction, damaging channel alterations, water quality impairment, and the inappropriate use of motorboats. A designation will also require the establishment of protected instream flow levels to maintain the minimum amount of water in the river that is necessary to safeguard public trust resources, including fisheries, water quality, and recreation. A Local River Management Advisory Committee will be established to coordinate local issues related to the protection and management of the river and will provide local residents with a direct avenue for formal input to state decisions that affect the river. Finally, a 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.
A "Rural River" classification is recommended for the Upper Merrimack River. Under HB 1432 (1990), rural rivers are defined as "those rivers or river segments 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." Although some sponsors of the nomination recommended a natural river classification for the upper portion of the river segment and other supporters recommended a community river classification for the river as it flows past downtown Concord, the Department and the Rivers Management Advisory Committee have determined that the river and its corridor best meet the definition of a rural river. This determination was reached following consultations with the Franklin City Council and the Concord Planning Board. The Franklin City Council objected to the natural rivers classification because of its potential impact on the expansion of the regional wastewater treatment facility. The Concord Planning Board considered the options of a rural or community classification and have supported the rural classification as being appropriate for the future planning and management of the river. The designation of the Upper Merrimack River as a "Rural River" under the Rivers Management and Protection Program will clearly express the intent of the General Court with regard to the protection and management of the river and will focus attention on the river as a natural resource of both statewide and local significance. This attention will help to insure greater scrutiny of plans and proposals which have the potential to significantly alter or destroy those river values and characteristics which qualify the river for designation.
Recommendation 2: The communities of Franklin, Northfield, Boscawen, Canterbury, Penacook, Concord, and Bow should continue to work toward protection of the Upper Merrimack River through the adoption and implementation of a river management plan developed by the Merrimack River Area Planning Committee.
While a state designation will improve the protection and management of the river itself, continuing local efforts will be needed to address the use and conservation of the river corridor. A growing recognition by local citizens of the Upper Merrimack River's valuable contribution to the overall quality of life in their communities is reflected in their desire to see it designated into the state program and by the efforts of the Merrimack River Area Planning Committee and the Office of State Planning to develop a river management plan. The seven river communities should work toward the completion and implementation of the recommendations in this river 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 Upper Merrimack River will "endure as part of the river uses to be enjoyed by New Hampshire people."