Who’s Affected by the State’s “410 Rule”?

Freedom – March 22, 2010 — Ossipee Lake Alliance has announced it will conduct a survey of lake property owners to determine how many are affected by the state’s claim that it owns the shoreline up to 410 ft. above sea level.

The online survey will be conducted in April for property owners on the big lake, the three bays, the rivers and channels and Danforth Pond. Paper copies of the survey will be provided to property owners who do not have Internet access.

Alliance Executive Director David Smith said the survey is an important step in the process of appealing the controversial benchmark, which was little known to lake residents until last year when state officials began citing it in their denials of applications for shoreline work.

Under common law, the state owns large bodies of water and their shorelines up to the natural mean high water mark. While the state’s claim of ownership is not in question, the 410 ft. benchmark is.

After complaints about it surfaced last year, the Alliance hosted a meeting of state and local officials that was attended by Alan Brooks of the Office of the State Attorney General and Renee Pelletier of DES.

Brooks and Pelletier confirmed the state’s claim of ownership to 410 ft., but neither could say when the benchmark was set, who set it or what criteria were used to set it. All of the information is missing.

Brooks and Pelletier said the state would consider changing the benchmark to a lower number if local officials can prove it is wrong.

As a result of the publicity surrounding the meeting, a number of lake property owners and businesses realized that part of their property – and in some cases all of it, including their house and other structures – is legally owned by the state.

Since then, several Ossipee property owners have filed for tax abatements. Others around the lake have scrambled to find their title insurance documents or have contacted an attorney to seek advice, including those who are concerned that they may not be able to sell their property.

“The awareness of the impact of this issue is just starting,” Alliance director Smith said.

“We believe everyone on the lake is affected to some degree by the 410 Rule, and the survey will help us find out how many.”

Smith said the survey will be announced to property owners by letter in April and the results will be made public in May. The Alliance also plans to invite state and local officials to a second public meeting on the 410 Rule in June.


  1. Dianne 14 years ago March 22, 2010

    Do we need a copy of the deed to find where the 410′ mark comes on our property?

  2. Ossipee Lake 14 years ago March 22, 2010

    No, you don’t need your deed. The summer level is 407.25, so take a yardstick and stand on your shore and hold the bottom of the yardstick at the approximate level of the water during summer. The 410 ft. level will be just a bit shorter than the top of the yardstick. There will be a graphic illustration of all this contained in the survey when it is announced and released.

  3. Don MacLeod 14 years ago March 22, 2010

    From past Smart reports our spring flood measured 411’ in April/May 2008 and 412’ on April 12, 2007. If this Spring resident property owners were prepared to stake that high water mark at their property boundaries on a day when the lake level is known to be 410’ perhaps we could establish a better reference for what 410’ means to waterfront property around the lake.

  4. gordon taylor 14 years ago March 22, 2010

    I can tell even without the yardstick exercise that virtually ALL of our property is under water at the 410 mark. It will be very interesting to see how our genius state officials respond when I ask for all my property taxes refunded.

  5. Don 14 years ago March 22, 2010

    Is this the survey, or are we all going to get a formal survey in the mail?

    Also, can anyone advise the level the lake rose to on various dates in the past.

    I am going to have to dig a little to determine the date I have in mind but “I THINK” it was in June of 1988 that the lake rose to the higest level I can remember. We have lots of photo’s of that event. It would be nice to use a high water date like that as a high water benchmark.

  6. Ossipee Lake 14 years ago March 22, 2010

    Don, the survey will be announced in April and all lake property owners will receive a notice on how to participate.

  7. Don 14 years ago March 22, 2010

    I crossed my prevoius message with some previous messages and I see some dates from the Smart reports that might be usable as benchmarks. We had tenants renting our cottage on Leavitt Bay during the period I remember as the highest I’ve ever seen and I know for sure it was in June. I had to refund their money because they lost the beach, the dock, and entire front yard. The state closed the lake to boating well into July that year because of debris and fears of erosion due to wakes.

  8. Dick Gill 14 years ago March 22, 2010

    Just reviewed my deed again to our waterfront property on Broad Bay and it does refer “…. to an iron pin at the high water mark on the shore” as a boundary. The pin has been there for at least 26 years and does appear to be at about the 410 level. Just for info.

  9. Don 14 years ago March 22, 2010

    My morning coffee is almost gone, and I’ll have to get back to work soon and sign off. One last thought.  It’s a shame that the state has taken a “prove me wrong” position on something as important as this. The high water events from the past are well documented phtographically , in the local newspapers, and even on TV reports. We reside in MA and watched the reports on the local stations. At the 411-412 foot marks the water was half way up some peoples picture windows on their first floor rooms, and people were sitting on their roofs being evacuated. This isn’t even funny.

  10. phil moore 14 years ago March 22, 2010

    The year that Don refers to was in June 1998. I also remember floods from Mar. 1953 when parts of Rte. 16 were damaged and closed. While our cottage sits high on a bluff, the 410′ mark is fairly high up on onto our bluff and covers 100% of “our” beach. Whenever the water mark reaches the 410′ mark, we incur some erosion. If the water level were to be consistently maintained at the 410′ mark, I could envision our cottage eventually sliding down the blff & into the Lake. Think Chatham MA. & Peggoty Beach in Scituate MA.

  11. Hank 14 years ago March 22, 2010

    “Brooks and Pelletier said the state would consider changing the benchmark to a lower number if local officials can prove it is wrong.”


    “Brooks and Pelletier said the state would consider changing the benchmark to a lower number if people find out about it and put up a fuss.”

  12. Tom 14 years ago March 22, 2010

    Changing it now does not change the fact that we have been paying taxes that should have been the responsibility of the state and on property values that are greatly inflated.

  13. Chris 14 years ago March 22, 2010

    The property that the families camp sits on was purchased around 1938 from the town of Freedom, due to a tax lien. Every spring it does flood and I am pretty sure much of the lot is below the 410′ level. It will be interesting to see how the state handles the fact that Freedom sold land that it didn’t own. Along with all the property owners, the title insurance companies are going to be very interested to see how this turns out.

  14. Tom 14 years ago March 22, 2010

    We were at 410 for a bit of july last year. Since we are currently at 408 and have over two inches of rain coming in the next two days I expect that we will get a very clear picture of 410 or 411 in the next few days.

  15. Dave 14 years ago March 22, 2010

    The water level at the dam is the lowest point on the entire lake. Even at the summer level you will not get a clear estimate of the 410ft mark by holding a yardstick at the waters edge unless you are at the dam. Find someone with a portable gps and lay it on the beach on a clear day with as many satelites as possible receiving it and you will get a better idea. Right now Broad Bay is higher than Danforth pond due to the water being backed up and there is still a lot of ice slowing the flow.

  16. Richard Phillips 14 years ago March 22, 2010

    You don’t have to conduct a survey to see who is affected because every lake front lot is affected. The question is to what degree they are affected. My guess is that it will be substantial at Long Sands and along the river between the Lake and Broad Bay yet hardly noticeable on the east side of Broad Bay.

  17. Rick 14 years ago March 25, 2010

    At 6:00 a.m. 3/25/2010 the lake level on the DES site is 409.96. Take a look around and see what you own and what the state owns. If it is under water then it is the states.


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