3 Winnipesaukee coves closed to rafting

MEREDITH — The New Hampshire Department of Safety (DOS) has prohibited "rafting" at Round, Fish and Flag coves on Lake Winnipesaukee in response to a petition presented by neighboring property owners.

In 1983 the Legislature authorized the DOS to define and regulate rafting and since 1947 property owners have been entitled to petition the department to impose operating restrictions on water bodies within or bordering municipalities. The practice of "rafting-up" involves getting two or more craft, often many, to anchor very close together for the purpose of socializing.

Cheri Pierce, whose family has owned property on Flag Cove since 1945, submitted a petition in August and the DOS held a public hearing in September, at which eight residents spoke in favor and none against forbidding rafting in the three coves. Moreover, another 13 residents submitted letters supporting the petition.

The petitioners claimed that rafting posed a safety hazard in and around the narrow, shallow inlets where the most of the water is less than six feet deep and nowhere exceeds 12 feet in depth while much of the navigable area in between 150 feet and 200 feet wide. Moreover, the shallow, warm waters and fertile sediment provide ideal conditions for milfoil, the growth and spread of which is fostered by the repeated dropping and hauling of anchors of rafting boats. The coves also provide nesting sites for loons as well as habitat for other species of wildlife. Finally. residents complained that rafting is often presents a nuisance, primarily the disposal of trash in the lake.

Unless the decision of the DOS is appealed within 30 days, the agency will draft rules to implement the ban.