Ossipee—November 14, 2016—The formerly pristine shorefront of the Ossipee Bluffs Association has been degrading into swampland for years, the result of tons of sand and debris deposited after abutting property owner Donald Lee altered the flow of the Lovell River with cinderblock walls.
A state-approved plan to clean up the mess will begin shortly. But most of the $500,000 to $600,000 cost will initially be shouldered not by Lee, who was ordered to pay for it decades ago, but by the 107 families of the Bluffs Association. That’s because of the failure of Lee’s property to sell in a forced Sheriff’s auction earlier this month.
Frustrated by years of fruitless attempts to collect from Lee after DES and a state court found him liable for one of Ossipee Lake’s worst environmental disasters, the state ordered the Sheriff to sell Lee’s shorefront house and land and put the proceeds into a remediation escrow account. At the November 4 auction, however, no bidders were willing to meet the property’s reserve price and assume an outstanding $142,000 mortgage and taxes owed to Ossipee. The property will be offered again for sale at a future date, but the remediation project will proceed as scheduled.
After years of waiting for a legal resolution to the Lee matter, the Bluffs Association last year voted to create its own remediation plan before Bradford Cove reached the “point of no return,” as Bluffs official Gary Cowles put it.
A DES-approved plan by Northeast Earth Mechanics of Pittsfield will be supervised by Littleton-based engineering firm Headwaters Hydrology when work begins this month. To restore the natural path of the river, the water flow will be temporarily diverted so that accumulated sand and debris can be removed from the boat mooring area. Then two jetties will be constructed to re-establish the historical path of the Lovell into the lake.
The failure of Lee’s property to sell at auction is a setback for a lake association that has faced years of frustration and financial hardship. In a 2010 Ossipee Lake Alliance editorial, a Bluffs official said the organization had at that point spent $232,000 in legal, engineering, and other expenses to bring Lee to justice for environmental meddling that began in 1988 when he started changing the course of the Lovell River to create a sandbar. It is likely that the group’s final expense tally, including the remediation cost, will be only partially offset by the eventual sale of Lee’s property.
But if there is a positive sign of progress in the current status of the case, it’s that the long-delayed remediation of Bradford Cove is finally about to begin. If all goes well, by next year Bluffs residents will be able to enjoy their beach and boat basin the way it was 28 years ago.
The Ossipee Lake Alliance website has numerous articles about the Lee case, including a 2008 summary of the matter published on the 20th anniversary of Lee’s initial environmental violations. Other stories may be found by searching for “Lee” or “Bluffs” using the Alliance website search function. To be informed about the next auction date for the Lee property, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.