Freedom – June 2, 2003 – Speaking to a large gathering at the annual spring meeting of the Berry Bay Association, the New Hampshire Lakes Association’s (NHLA) environmental policy director David Schaarsmith said strong grassroots activism by lake property owners and associations is essential for the passage of legislation that benefits the state’s lakes.
Noting that the typical timeline for passage of legislation is three to five years, Schaarsmith candidly discussed the lobbying process and detailed the status of the two bills sponsored by his organization this year.
SB-106 proposed closing a loophole that exempts a majority of personal watercraft, generally called jets skis, from the state’s 1989 law that is supposed to regulate such craft. The law defines jets skis as accommodating up to two people but models built since then have been designed for three persons. Since a two-passenger watercraft cannot readily be
distinguished from a three-passenger craft, the law has become unenforceable.
SB-106 proposed unifying all personal watercraft under the definition used by the Personal Watercraft Association, which represents the manufacturers of such vessels. After intense lobbying against the bill by attorneys for the industry, the Senate Wildlife & Recreation Committee rejected it by a 3-2 vote, marking the fifth year that similar bills have failed in Concord.
NHLA’s SB-159 proposed requiring a water access permit as a way of generating revenue from out of state boaters to cover their fair share of the cost to protect the state’s lakes with marine patrol enforcement and programs to prevent the spread of milfoil, among others. The bill received a lukewarm response in Concord and is unlikely to be brought to a vote this year, according to Schaarsmith.
Noting that a many legislators in the state do not represent lake communities, Schaarsmith underscored the difficulty of lake associations making their voices heard in a crowded legislative environment.
“Personal contact is always better than a letter writing or e-mail campaign,” he said, noting that a phone call remains the most personalized and effective way to communicate with an elected official. Schaarsmith added that testifying at hearings is another important way to create visibility and suggested that lake associations develop one or two key individuals who are willing to appear in Concord to speak about pending legislation.
Berry Bay Association was formed in 1985 to represent the property owners of Berry Bay on Lake Ossipee in Freedom. The organization maintains a website at www.berrybay.org.