Warner River protection program proposal mulled at hearing

  • Members of the communities surrounding the Warner River attended a public hearing on whether the river should be accepted into the state's Rivers Management and Protection Program Tuesday night. Caitlin Andrews—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 7/11/2017 11:19:50 PM

Residents interested in the fate of the Warner River expressed openness to the watershed going under state purview. 

The question of whether the 20-mile long river should be accepted into the state’s Rivers Management and Protection Program went before a public hearing in Warner on Tuesday night. Reception toward the project was mostly positive, with the project receiving endorsements from the Warner select board and other interested groups.

“This program would expand our capacity to make informed decisions about our natural resources and … to achieve success in conservation efforts,” said Michelle Halsted of the Rural Heritage Connection in Bradford.

Acceptance into the program would allow residents of the river’s communities to form a Local Advisory Council and allow all parties interested in the river – from land owners to recreationalists – to have a say in how the river is used. The state would be able to divide the river into four sections – natural, rural, rural community and community – that would determine what kind of use is allowed in each section.

If the Department of Environmental Services determines there is enough public approval for the project, the New Hampshire DES rivers coordinator and the Rivers Management Advisory Committee will recommended it to the NHDES commissioner by early October, according to Sam Dufree, assistant planner for the Central New Hampshire Regional Planning Commission.

The idea of having the river accepted into the protection program dates back to 2012, when New Hampshire Fish and Game, along with the Basil Woods Jr. Chapter of Trout Unlimited, surveyed the river and found that two-thirds of its watershed can support wild brook trout, indicating a high water-quality levels.

For Tyson Morrill, who is studying brook trout restoration at Plymouth State University, the importance of such an ecosystem was motivation enough to drive to the meeting from Gilmanton. He surveyed the water quality of some of the river’s tributaries last year with Trout Unlimited, and was struck by how many people seemed interested in the river’s welfare.

“Everyone from farmers to workers to tourists would stop on the road near where I was working and show interest in the stream,” he said.

But one Warner resident, Fred Arnold, was skeptical. Arnold said he’s owned land that touches the river for 18 years, and was wary of government oversight.

“We’ve already got the Shoreland Water Quality Protection Act and local ordinances ... why do we need anything else?” he said.

The state will be accepting written public comment on the project until July 31.

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