Ossipee – April 28, 2011 – The decisions the New Hampshire Senate makes about the budget approved earlier this month by the House of Representatives will determine the fate of two programs important to the preservation and protection of state lakes, including Ossipee Lake.
The Volunteer Lake Assessment Program and the Lakes Management and Protection Program are among five DES water quality monitoring and management programs that will end on June 30 if the House budget is adopted in its current form. Both programs are active on Ossipee Lake, according to Susan Marks, Ossipee Lake Alliance’s Director of Programs.
The Volunteer Lake Assessment Program, known as VLAP, is at the center of water quality monitoring on the lake, according to Marks. VLAP annually coordinates the collection and processing of water samples from the lake’s “deep spots” and maintains a database that tracks long-term changes in the lake’s water quality.
VLAP was created in 1985 as a cost-effective way to monitor water quality in the state’s 800 public lakes and ponds by tapping into a broad network of volunteers. On Ossipee Lake, the Alliance annually arranges for volunteers who help the VLAP coordinator collect deep water samples from the big lake, the bays and Danforth Pond. A state biologist then processes the samples and reports on the findings.
VLAP and its companion Volunteer River Assessment Program (VRAP), also eliminated in the House budget, support 215 groups with more than 700 volunteers in the collection and processing of more than 20,000 water samples from 1,500 lakes, rivers and streams. State officials estimate that VLAP and VRAP volunteers have provided close to $1 million in in-kind services to the state since the programs began.
This is the second time that VLAP has faced being shut down. In 2004, then-commissioner of DES Michael Nolin eliminated the program in response to newly-elected Republican Governor Craig Benson’s demand for across the board cuts to state spending. After a public outcry, Nolin reversed his decision.
Lakes Management and Protection Program
Also eliminated in the House budget is the Lakes Management and Protection Program (LMPP), created by the Legislature in 1990 to establish and oversee master management criteria for the state’s lakes. It is the only formal state mechanism for municipalities to collaborate on source water protection and hazard mitigation strategies.
In addition to providing technical and program management expertise for state and local partnerships for lake management and protection programs, LMPP oversees the 19-member Lakes Management Advisory Committee, comprised of representatives from state agencies, lake communities, academia, the real estate and tourism industries, environmental groups, and fishing and wildlife interests.
Alliance executive Marks credits LMPP and its director, Jacquie Colburn, with taking the initial steps in the process that resulted in the first-ever management plan for Ossipee Lake Natural Area. Marks said the Lakes Management Advisory Committee meeting at Ossipee Lake in July 2007 was the first forum of all the state agencies that were needed to address the rapidly deteriorating situation at the Natural Area, which was purchased by the state in 1969.
As a result of the meeting, the state agency DRED agreed to lead a Natural Area Working Group of lake stakeholders, including boaters and local property owners, in a year-long effort that resulted in the first mixed-use management plan for an environmentally and historically significant state property. A success, the plan is now considered a model for such properties.
As part of its ongoing participation in DRED’s Working Group, LMPP has also worked with the state’s Freshwater Beach Inspection Program (FBIC) in annual water testing for E. coli and other bacteria at the Natural Area. Last year, FBIC conducted 652 inspections at 158 public beaches and issued 58 beach closure advisories based on the presence of bacteria. It too will cease operations on June 30 if the House budget stands.
Editor’s Note: The Ossipee Lake area is represented by Jeb Braley in the New Hampshire Senate. His email address is Jeb.Bradley@leg.state.nh.us.