Freedom — December 29, 2010 — On January 3rd the Carroll County Independent published a front page story on a meeting the Alliance held with state and local officials to discuss an important but little known law that defines the state’s ownership of shorefront property. For the rest of the year, the number 410 dominated the lake news.
For most lake property owners it was a mild surprise that the state owned anything other than the lake itself. For others, however, the news that the state owns the shoreline to 410 ft. above sea level was devastating. It meant the state owned a large part of their property; and in 12 instances it meant the state owned everything, including their house.
Freedom and Ossipee Selectmen and State Representative Mark McConkey were quick to respond – just ahead of the first request for a tax abatement based on what became known as the 410 Rule. Local officials lined up volunteers to look for historical evidence that the lake’s “natural” high water mark was a lot lower than the state’s claim.
After a summer of sleuthing failed to uncover the figurative smoking gun, the Alliance convened a public meeting on August 12 for the state to answer questions about an array of issues confounding lake property owners, including taxes and property sales. August 12 was hot and there was the potential for hot tempers to match. But the meeting proved to be a refreshing exchange of facts and ideas – so remarkably different in tone from what it might have been that the Independent wrote a lengthy editorial about it.
The bottom line? The state says it will decide in January whether to lower the benchmark. At press time, however, the planned final search for evidence at the lake during the annual draw-down has been hampered by continued high water levels. Just in case the state doesn’t act, the lake’s three State Representatives and its State Senator have a piece of benchmark-lowering legislation ready to roll out.
Milfoil was also in the news, of course, and the year started promisingly with the announcement of two initiatives. In Concord, what’s known as the Weeds Committee said it was shooting for $5 million from the State Legislature to fund the perennially underfunded state milfoil control program. Locally, meanwhile, the Alliance announced the formation of a Tri-Town Milfoil Committee for lake-wide coordination of weed control. Each town’s conservation commission appointed two members who were approved by their respective Select Board.
By summer, however, both milfoil efforts were dead. In Concord the Legislature punted again on milfoil funding, leaving the heavy lifting to lake communities like ours who have the no-win choice of coming up with the cash to pay for eradication programs or letting the milfoil grow and spread.
What of the Tri-Town Milfoil Committee? Despite having informed and well-intentioned members, the group quickly bogged down in procedural issues that blocked progress and created frustration. First Effingham dropped out, then Freedom and Ossipee similarly decided the current method of towns working on their own was sufficient. All was not in vain, however. Each town continues to have a designated milfoil committee responsible for addressing issues from funding to scheduling annual treatments.
On the lake this year there were successful milfoil control treatments in Pickerel Cove and Danforth Pond; and a new patch of invasive weeds in the Ossipee River above the dam near Effingham’s shoreline was discovered and treated quickly.
Donald Lee Madness
Like a bad penny, the notorious Donald Lee case popped into view from time to time to remind us that the combined legal powers of DES and the Office of the State Attorney General continue to be unable to resolve it.
The Lee case’s legal complexities have become too many and too arcane to detail in a news story without a bibliography and footnotes. But you can follow its sluggish trajectory with the illustrated timeline we published in our spring newsletter (now available on our website). This graphic illustration tracks the case through seven presidential administrations and encompasses the fall of the Berlin Wall, the death of Jerry Garcia, the end of the Red Sox curse, the 9/11 terror attacks and last year’s Super Bowl victory by the New Orleans Saints.
Now in its 23rd year, the Donald Lee case has literally become part of history. Incredibly, no one in Concord is surprised or embarrassed.
Everyone Talks About It
Yes, it’s the weather. Compared to the bizarre weather of the past few years, this year was positively tame. Dull, even. No floods or tornadoes (although there was a doozy of a wind and rain event in November that put the lights out for several days).
Temperatures from January through March were higher than normal and snowfall was less, according to the always reliable website northconwayweather.com. March’s warm temperatures brought an abundance of rain, but when April rolled around and we were ready for spring, snow again blanketed the ground, piling up six inches for the month. Go figure. Once again Mother Nature kept the Dam Bureau on its toes with more rain than usual after the Columbus Day draw-down, hampering the state’s search for information on the natural level of the lake.
Baby on Board
Bears were the buzz on Berry Bay in May, but by summer everyone there was talking about baby loons – the first documented birth of loons on Ossipee Lake since the 1970s, according to John Cooley of the Loon Preservation Committee in Moultonborough, who described it as “a once in a lifetime experience.”
The loons were born on Leavitt Bay but soon relocated to Berry Bay, which Cooley said is a technique they use to keep their natural enemies confused. The Alliance’s Facebook community took up the task of ensuring the chicks’ well-being by tracking their movements and warning curious boaters to keep their distance. By all accounts, the chicks thrived and made it through the season without incident.
We are grateful to everyone who supported our work this year with a contribution or a volunteer effort. We can’t do it without you!
Our special thanks go to Carroll County Independent editor Larissa Mulkern, who greatly increased awareness of lake issues during her stay at the paper. We will miss her editorial voice and wish her well in her next position.
Kudos to our elected officials for their work on the 410 Rule, and special thanks also go to our Board of Directors, including new member Jean Hansen, for all their efforts this year.
Happy New Year to all, and it’s on to 2011.