Leavitt Bay Says No to DES

Ossipee—June 11, 2024—Four conservation organizations, a prominent 75-year-old children’s summer camp and 204 waterfront residents this week joined in an appeal of the state’s approval of an 82.5-ft. wharf and five attached boat docks on Leavitt Bay’s Loon Island.

The May 15 approval of the docks by the DES Wetlands Bureau authorized Deborah and Kevin Randall to build dock structures that can accommodate up to nine boat slips on the southern side of the unoccupied 0.91-acre island.

In addition to lake property owners, almost all of them on Leavitt Bay, the appellants in the appeal are Ossipee Lake Alliance, Camp Marist, Green Mountain Conservation Group, the Loon Preservation Committee, and Berry Bay Association.

Two other appeals of the DES decision were filed separately by Leavitt Bay property owners, and Ossipee Conservation Commission sent DES a letter opposing the docks in February.

Tiny (0.91-acre) Loon Island is a loon nesting site in Leavitt Bay. Photo: John Rowe Photos

The appeal filed this week said the state’s approval was unreasonable and unlawful because it violates the state’s standards for docks on water bodies of less than 1,000 acres, and because the applicant falsely stated the island does not contain protected species.

The appellants additionally alleged that the Randalls’ answers to the technical questions in DES’s Standard Dredge and Fill Application were either vague or non-responsive, and the dock issue should have required a DES public hearing.

“Green Mountain Conservation Group joined us in writing a letter to DES more than three months ago pointing out that the application had errors and omissions that needed to be addressed,” said Ossipee Lake Alliance co-founder David Smith.

“The Wetlands Bureau never acknowledged the letter, and apparently never asked the applicant to address the issues, which is odd because the problems with the document were obvious.”

Advised of the application, John Cooley of the Loon Preservation Committee said the proposed docking system “would represent a substantial change in conditions at the island,” which he said is a highly suitable loon nesting habitat. Cooley said the potential increased risk to loons “merits further agency and public review, and his organization supports the appeal.”

The state’s approval of the docks caught the Leavitt Bay community by surprise because of the overwhelming public opposition to the plan expressed at a packed February 20 Ossipee Planning Board hearing on the matter.

While the dock decision is solely in the hands of the state, towns affected by the decision can hold hearings and provide the state with information and public comments.

Opponents of the plan at the Planning Board hearing pointed to the tiny size of the island, the already-crowded boating conditions on Leavitt Bay, and the documented history of loons nesting at the site.

Hearing attendees also said they were put off by what they said were inconsistent and confusing statements made by island co-owner Kevin Randall, who claimed he needed the five docks to deter boaters from trespassing.

Conservationists in February told DES the Loon Island dock proposal was inadequate because of answers like this.

Randall said he might consider renting the docks in the future if they were approved, but said had no immediate plans to do so. He said he also might want to build a gazebo at the site.

This week’s filing with the state is known as a Preliminary Notice of Appeal. Unlike a Standard Notice of Appeal, which is more of a lawsuit and usually requires an attorney, a Preliminary Notice of Appeal provides a pathway to mediated discussions with the state’s Wetlands Council.

The next meeting of the Wetlands Council is July 9, according to the organization’s website. A Standard Notice of Appeal may be filed if a mediated solution cannot be found.

Lake Community Pushbacks
The appeals in the Loon Island case come as lake communities statewide are gearing up to make lake issues part of the November election cycle.

Lake groups expressed outrage in April after Representative Joe Sweeney (R-Salem) led a successful effort to block a discussion and vote on a years-in-the-making bipartisan House bill to limit the environmental damage caused by wake boats.

Sweeney called the proposed bill “awful” despite its wide popularity with lake organizations and its support by the House Resources, Recreation and Development Committee.

Weeks later in the Senate, Denise Ricciardi (R-District 9) became a bold face name among lake groups after she accused them of being “divisive” about environmental and water safety issues.

Ricciardi suggested that the solution to wake boat damage was for marinas and the state’s tourism industry to create greater awareness.

In leading the Senate’s effort to kill a bill mandating a 300 ft. wake boat shoreline setback, which is the minimum recommended by numerous scientific studies, Senator Tim Lang (R-Sanbornton) said wake boats are “a fairly significant industry in the state.”

Asked about new wake boat setback laws in Maine and Vermont that use the standards New Hampshire just rejected, Lang told InDepthNH.org “I am not the type of a legislator to keep up with the Joneses.”

Despite the wake boat setbacks, NH LAKES is coming off a successful year that saw renewed grassroots energy in confronting long-standing issues from cyanobacteria to unsafe boating conditions to a shortage of Marine Patrol officers.

In a series of recent emails, NH LAKES President Andrea LaMoreaux called on lake advocates to run for office and to make sure lake issues are front and center in this year’s election debates.

1 comment

  1. John 4 hours ago June 13, 2024

    I have been a property owner on Berry Bay for almost 70 years. I am a member of Berry Bay Association, which is committed to preserving the quality of the Ossipee Lake System and property around the lakes. When I first came here, there were no loons. Now we see loons and other wildlife on an ever-increasing basis and the lakes have become a place for nesting. The Leavitt Bay island is one of those nesting sites. My concern about this island being used for boat slips is that I believe the real intention to be for use as a commercial venture for this family, and an already very busy lake for boat traffic will just get worse.

    REPLY

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *