Channel Marine on Paugus Bay will have to adjust to the rise in lake level, once the water rises. (Photoshopped)
State studies raising lake level and flooding islands
By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY FUN (April Fool!)
CONCORD — State officials have begun studying the feasibility of increasing the size of Lake Winnipesaukee by a third in order to expand the extent of shorefront property, boost the output of hydroelectric stations, and accommodate a greater volume of boat traffic.
"The lake is the most valuable resource in the state." said Jon Smerlin of Acme Consulting Partners of Jersey City, New Jersey. "It represents a significant share of the tourism sector of the state economy and is major source of employment for our citizens and source of revenue to the state. More waterfront property," he continued, "will increase the property tax base of towns around the lake, attract more retirees and tourists. In other words, you can't have too much of a good thing," he remarked.
The report and recommendations of a working group composed of state officials and private consultants is expected in July, Meanwhile, the prospect of displacing owners of waterfront property has already aroused concern around the lake.
Former Massachusetts governor and presidential candidate Mitt Romney, whose estate in Wolfeboro would be inundated, has formed an organization — Plutocrats for Property Rights — to rally shorefront property owners in opposition to the project. Romney, who left for a family vacation in Canada with the dog strapped to the roof of the car last week, could not be reached for comment. But, one person who asked not to be identified said that the group intends to raise enough money to purchase the entire lake.
The Attorney General has reportedly prepared an opinion that since the lake is the property of the state, the state can exercise its power of eminent domain to expand it as long as private property owners are awarded just compensation, a presumption sure to be challenged in court.
Currently the lake covers 71 square miles with 288 miles of shoreline. Expanding the lake by a third would provide 95 square miles of water and, depending on the topography, nearly 400 miles of shoreline.
Smerlin conceded there would be what he called "trade-offs" arising from flooding a portion of the existing shoreline along with drowning all 258 islands in the lake, including some like Governor's Island in Gilford that have been intensively developed. The project is estimated to inundate the existing shoreline o a depth of several hundred yards. He noted half the islands are less than a quarter of an acre in size. In compensation, he said that displaced property owners would be awarded lots of comparable size in the floodplain of Hill. "It offers spectacular views of the countryside in Sanbornton and the skyline of downtown Franklin.," he said.
A study conducted by Green Leaf Group of Stockbridge, Massachusetts indicates the aggregate value of the great increase in the number of waterfront properties will more than offset that of the relatively few lost to flooding. A survey has shown that the area that would become the new shoreline is less densely developed than the existing shoreline, leaving space for more intensive development of affordable and workforce housing.
A spokesperson at the Dam Bureau at the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Resources said that project will require raising the level of the Lakeport Dam in Laconia, the only outlet from the lake. The project is estimated to cost close to $15 million, which would be funded by adding a surcharge on the boat registration fee.
Realtors welcomed the prospect. "These McMansions that have sprung up take up a lot of space, and the prices!" one said. "I'm excited about having a lot more inventory to offer at more affordable prices so your average Joe can enjoy the lake."
The greater volume of water is projected to significantly increase the hydroelectric power generated at Lakeport and other dams downstream, rendering the Northern Pass project redundant. Towns along the proposed route of the Northern Pass project, along with the environmental community, have shown interest in expanding the lake. "Water is nicer to look at than power lines," said one Groton resident.
In Meredith, where the town has wrestled with easing the congestion along the route 3 and 25 corridor for years, residents welcomed the prospect of flooding much of the two roadways, including the notorious intersection at the center of town. "More water will be a whole better than all that traffic, let alone those awful roundabouts," one woman said.
The director of the New Hampshire Marine Patrol said while he regretted having to move the newly built headquarters halfway up Loch Hill he was looking forward the new nuclear-powered Donzi that would be added to the fleet to patrol the lake. "It will give us the firepower to cut down on the speeding boaters as well as deal with piracy," he said.
"We expect this proposal will arouse some controversy and present some challenges," Smerlin said. "But, with New Hampshire ranked among the best states to retire to, we see this as a way to enhance the New Hampshire Advantage by providing more space for retirement homes and more recreational opportunities that will draw more retirees to the Lakes Region.
AND BY THE WAY, APRIL FOOLS!
While some properties will be flooded with the increase in lake volume, the amount of waterfront property generally will be increased, adding to the Lakes Region's inventory of desirable properties. (Photoshopped)
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