Concord — November 20, 2010 — Since the owners of waterfront property benefit from the absence of milfoil in lakes, ponds and rivers, some believe that they should make a greater contribution toward eradicating it.
State Representative Richard Drisko (R-Hollis), who chairs the Exotic Aquatic Weeds and Species Committee of the Legislature, which has overseen the campaign to control milfoil since 2004, has introduced legislation that would enable municipalities to assess a fee on shoreland property owners, which would be dedicated to controlling milfoil on public water bodies.
“Desperate times call for desperate measures,” Drisko remarked yesterday. He said that public awareness of the adverse effects of milfoil on natural ecosystems, water quality, recreational opportunities and property values has risen significantly, but “funding is our weakest link.”
A portion of the boat registration fee is applied to a fund administered by the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, which each year is distributed in the form of matching grants to lake associations and municipal governments for the treatment of milfoil. The state provided funding for 14 of the 33 control efforts undertaken this year, including seven of the 12 applications of chemical herbicides on Lake Winnipesaukee and the treatment of 81 infested acres on Lake Opechee.
Drisko applauded Moultonborough, where voters at Town Meeting in March appropriated $200,000 to treat the entire shoreline, altogether some 200 acres. He said that similar major initiatives were underway in Alton and Wolfeboro. In Laconia there has historically been objection to spending large amounts of money treating milfoil on the grounds the state owns the lakes, not the city.
Noting that his bill originated with the Exotic Aquatic Weeds and Species Committee, Drisko explained that it is designed as enabling legislation that would authorize but not require municipalities to levy an assessment on waterfront property owners. The amount of the fee would be left to the discretion of the city or town, which would also be entitled to establish a capital reserve fund earmarked for the treatment of milfoil.
“As long as the proceeds are dedicated to milfoil the management of the money would be at the town’s discretion,” Drisko said.
Drisko said that there appears to be a precedent for assessing a particular class of property owners. State law, he said, authorizes municipalities to define areas, which are usually downtown, where property owners, who are most often businesses, can be assessed for specific services required by neighborhood, like street lighting or trash collection.
Drisko stressed that owners of waterfront property benefit from the control of milfoil, which protects the value of their property. Referring to a study prepared at the University of New Hampshire, he said that milfoil infestations have depressed property values as much as 25-percent.