Concord — January 14, 2004 — The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) has announced lay-offs that will likely mean the end of the state’s Volunteer Lake Assessment Program (VLAP), a 20-year partnership between the agency and lake associations to monitor the health and well-being of the state’s lakes. Ossipee Lake Alliance was a participant in the program in 2003.
The cuts, apparently in response to state-mandated budget reductions, will reportedly result in the elimination of 17 NHDES employees, including VLAP’s program coordinator Andrea LaMoreaux. The lay-offs are said to be the first ever for the agency.
Since 1985, VLAP has leveraged limited state resources by tapping volunteers to collect lake water samples that are processed by the agency to track changes in water quality over time. The partnership has grown in popularity as the concern over water quality has increased among the state’s lake associations. Some 150 lakes participated in VLAP in 2003.
The state reports bi-annually to the Environmental Protection Agency on the quality of New Hampshire’s water. Presently three state biologists conduct thorough assessments of between 40 and 50 of the state’s 900 public lakes and ponds each year. Given the small number of staff assigned to the task, VLAP test results are used to supplement the overall data available for local, state, and federal purposes.
Last year the Alliance arranged for NHDES to conduct the first thorough assessment of the Ossipee Lake system in more than 15 years, with tests made during the summer and winter. In addition, the Alliance and partner Green Mountain Conservation Group participated in VLAP by sampling water from the lake’s five deep-water locations in June, July, and August. Ironically, the state released the results of those tests during the same week as it was revealed that the program would be a victim of state lay-offs.