Joe Kenney Called “Misinformed” After NH LAKES Comments

Concord—March 24, 2024—New Hampshire Executive Councilor Joe Kenney last week threatened to oppose state funding for NH LAKES to manage the Lake Host program, which for years has provided free boat inspections at more than 300 lakes to prevent the spread of invasive weed species.

Kenney said he “had a problem” with approving the money because the charitable organization “wants to eliminate motorized activity on our lakes,” according to a transcript of an Executive Council meeting obtained and reported on by InDepthNH.org.

“There is no doubt about it,” the Wakefield Republican said, according to the news story, adding that he would prefer funding a “neutral” organization to perform boat inspections.

“I just think this organization should really stop and think about what they are doing because they are asking for public moneys for public lakes and at the same time they want to take away public enjoyment of that,” Kenney said.

NH LAKES president Andrea LaMoreaux responded to say that Kenney was “misinformed” about the organization’s advocacy work.

She said her organization is not seeking to eliminate any form of boating, and it uses its annual state funding solely for the Lake Host program’s invasive species prevention efforts, not for its environmental advocacy work.

Kenney eventually voted with the rest of the council to approve the funding, but not before doubling down on his opinion, saying NH LAKES’s “philosophy of biting the hand that feeds you” is wrong.

Advocacy Bills in Question
Kenney’s ire was apparently triggered by HB 1562, a bill that proposed updating the language of the state’s personal watercraft regulations. NH LAKES said it supported the bill but did not consider it a priority among other bills it is supporting this year.

The bill was withdrawn on March 13 on the recommendation of its primary sponsor, Merrimack State Representative Rosemarie Rung, citing misinformation being spread that it would outlaw personal watercraft.

A separate NH LAKES-supported bill, HB 1390, is seeking to reduce the environmental impact of large, powerful wakes from wake boats by establishing zones where they can safely operate.

On March 13 the House Resources, Recreation and Development Committee approved the bill with modifications. In its current form it would establish wake boat zones that are 300 feet from shore on lakes with a minimum size of 50 contiguous acres of open water.

The bill is strongly opposed by the watersports industry, and, apparently, by Council member Kenney.

“NH LAKES should not be trying to get in the way of people enjoying state-owned lakes as they wish,” Kenney said, per InDepthNH.org.

Apples and Oranges
Reaction to Kenney’s comments came from multiple corners, including Representative Rung, whose bill on updating the language of personal watercraft regulations triggered the Council member.

She called Kenney’s comments “wrong,” and suggested that he did not fully understand how NH LAKES works strategically with more than 60 local lake associations to advocate for lake environmental protections.

“I’m amazed an elected official would take such a stance,” she told InDepthNH.org.

DES Water Division Director Rene Pelletier said “apples and oranges” were being erroneously mixed in the Kenney debate, referring to the conflation of the boat inspection contract with the non-profit organization’s advocacy work.

“All the money that we fund to them is for water quality and they do a great job at it,” he said. “They have been doing it for years and [are] making a big difference in lake quality.

NH LAKES says the $295,000 contract it had with DES in 2023 leveraged an additional $759,385 in support of protecting lakes from the spread of invasive species.

Ossipee Lake Alliance called Kenney’s comments inaccurate and insulting to the more than 60 lake associations that rely on NH LAKES to move the ball forward on lake issues from milfoil control to cyanobacteria to water safety.

Alliance co-founder David Smith said he was particularly offended by Kenney’s statement that boaters should be allowed to use lakes “as they wish” without interference, saying that on many lakes that already is the case because of the state’s benign neglect.

“Look no further than Joe Kenney’s comments to understand why organizations like ours are so reliant on the work that NH LAKES does,” Smith said.

6 Comments

  1. ted M kramer 2 months ago March 25, 2024

    I was appalled and disappointed in Councilor Kenney’s
    lack of understanding of lake bills and his threats to
    the great work by NH Lakes.

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  2. Richard 2 months ago March 25, 2024

    Seems to me there is politics going on here.

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  3. Martha Jane Rich 2 months ago March 25, 2024

    Thanks to David and the Alliance for helping prevent this ignorant and destructive opposition to funding renewal for NH LAKES. With invasive species and harmful algal blooms on the rise, our lakes need champions, not opponents who see them merely as playgrounds.

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  4. John Brady 2 months ago March 25, 2024

    Wakeboarding is an insignificant part of the wake problem. 200, 300 or 500 feet away, their wake will still travel to shore. The real problem is ANY boat that runs along the shore at greater than headway speed, but not fast enough to get on plane. People operate this way, oblivious to the wake they are spreading behind them. I cannot imagine a legislative approach resolving this problem. Laws don’t eliminate stupidity. A greater emphasis on education may help. These offenders would save a lot of fuel, too.

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  5. tj236 2 months ago March 25, 2024

    Distance from shore does have an impact on the wake size. The longer a wake travels the more energy it loses/dissipates. But yes, educating the boaters should be the first significant action. Marine patrol could be a good way of educating boaters. Not necessarily writing citations but spreading the word regarding boat wakes and the best way to minimize wake damage.

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  6. Tim Otterbach 2 months ago March 28, 2024

    Clearly, and once again, we are seeing a knee jerk reactions from a faction In state government, who impose personal beliefs over factual information presented to respond the needs, health, safety and welfare of both our recreation waters, and the citizens and visitors to the state who enjoy them..
    There is no question that boat wakes, boat speed and boating safety, are are major concern for boat owners, including all types of water craft, whether powered, sailed, rowed or paddled, as well as property owners who are situated along the shores of our lakes ponds, bays and rivers.
    For many years, New Hampshire Lakes, partnering with numerous municipalities, and other concerned organizations, such as Ossipee Lake Alliance, Green Mountain Conservation Group, Squam Lake Natural Science Center, to name a few, have been a driving force in both protecting our pristine waters, utilizing successful programs such as the Lake Host Program, and participating in the Volunteer Lake Assessment Program, (VLAP).
    To question the value and the intent of these types of programs is both narrow sighted, and hints at other political agendas, which all too often rear their ugly heads, when environmental issues in New Hampshire come to the forefront in the states political arenas. This is the very time when the citizenry MUST speak out, voicing their desire, dare I say demand, the greatest levels of protections for out great water, independent of political platforms and agendas.

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