Lakes Region planners hear what warmer temps doing to Experimental Forest

MEREDITH — "The climate is changing and we can read the signature of change in our own backyard," said Lindsey Rustad, an ecologist with the United States Forest Service who studies the effects of rising temperatures on the northern forest at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest in Woodstock.

As the keynote speaker at the annual meeting of the Lakes Region Planning Commission on Monday night, Rustad tackled what she called the "the conundrum of climate" , or "what we know, don't know and need to know" from both a global and local perspective. She began by tracking the rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere since 1800, which after reaching unprecedented levels have continued to rise at a quickening pace. As the concentration of carbon dioxide and increased, temperatures have climbed. "Ten of the hottest years on record occurred in the last 15 years," Rustad said, "and the hottest year ever was 2104."

Rustad recalled that the changing climate began to catch the attention of scientists in the late 1950s and 30 years later the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was convened. The first report of the IPCC, issued in 1990, she described as "wishy-washy" but its fourth report found that "warming of the climate system is unequivocal" and "very likely" is the result of man-made greenhouse gas emissions. The most recent report of the IPCC concluded that "human influence has been the dominant cause of observed warming since 1950" and warned that longer the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is delayed, the greater the costs will be. "The language of the IPCC has changed dramatically," Rustad remarked.

Warming temperatures, Rustad said, have hastened the melting of sea ice leading to rising sea levels. At the same time, the warming world has been marked by changing patterns of precipitation levels as well as altered the patterns of precipitation and greater frequency of what she called "extreme events," like heavy precipitation, severe droughts and heat waves.

Rustad said that the changing climate has left its marks at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest. Established in 1956 , the 8,000 wooded acres riven by Hubbard Brook was originally a venue for studying the impact of acid rain, but since 1996 has been a center for measuring the effects of climate change on the northern forest. She said that since 1955 the average annual temperature in the forest has risen 2.9 degrees Fahrenheit, more than the global average. She noted that temperatures have risen relatively more at the higher latitudes. Precipitation has increased 12 percent, with more rainfall than snowfall. Both the amount of snowfall and days of snow cover have dropped 25 percent.

Rustad explained that because of the diminished snow cover, the soil freezes to greater depths in the winter, which impairs the capacity of the roots of trees and shrubs to absorb nutrients, chiefly nitrates and phosphorus, stunting the growth of their root systems. Instead, elevated levels of nitrates and phosphorus leach into ground and surface water. At Hubbard Brook, Rustad said, the ice storm of 1998 was simulated by spraying trees with a fire hose amid freezing temperatures. The experiment confirmed that when the capacity of trees to absorb nutrients is impaired, elevated levels of nitrates and phosphorus are found in nearby surface water after the icing event.

Rustad herself is interested in extreme events, which she defined as precipitation of two inches or more. She said that as the climate has changed wet and dry periods, which once alternated, have begun to coincide with greater frequency. "We have drier soils in a wetter world," she remarked. Likewise, warmer temperatures prompts trees to leaf and flowers to blossom earlier in the spring while a late spring frost, which counts as an extreme event, may destroy a significant share of the forest canopy opened by the early warming.

Asked what aspect of climate change should most concern municipal Planning Departments in New Hampshire, without hesitation Rustad replied "heavy precipitation".

Although Rustad acknowledged some have questioned the findings and ignored the warnings of the scientific community, she said that more and more people, especially those whose livelihoods and life styles are affected, understand from experience that the climate is changing. "People are beginning to care," she said.

Sanbornton man returns home to interrupt alleged copper wire thieves

SANBORNTON — A homeowner foiled two would-be burglars he found stripping copper wire from his Stage Road home on Monday afternoon around 1:05 p.m.

Police Chief Stephen Hankard said Frederick Temple, 30, of 40 School Street in Franklin and Cody Merrill, 21, of 30 School Street in Franklin were allegedly in the 60-year-old victim's home when he entered his front room.

First encountering Temple, the victim tried to block his escape by wrestling with him Merrill who in to help Temple and the two got away. They fled the home and the victim called police.

Hankard said it appears they ran along the wood line and jumped in the waters of Hermit Lake with the intent of resurfacing at a parking lot where one of them had parked a truck.

Hankard said Lt. Kevin McIntosh went to the home while he and Sgt. Mike Grier of the New Hampton Police were waiting for the two when they came out of the water and tried to get to their truck. He said N.H. State Trooper Mark Nash assisted with the arrests.

Hankard said both allowed themselves to be arrested without incident. He said Merrill was taken to New Hampton for an interview and booking while he took Temple to Sanbornton for the same.

Both were held on cash-only bail overnight.

In the 6th Circuit Court, Franklin Division yesterday morning, both appeared by video with Judge Jim Carroll also appearing by video from the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Circuit Court.

Temple is charged with felony robbery, felony burglary, of being a felon in possession with a dangerous weapon (a double-edged boot knife) possession of marijuana, simple assault and criminal trespass. He is being held in the Belknap County House of Corrections on $5,000 cash-only bail

Merrill is charged with one felony court each of burglary and robbery, simple assault and criminal trespass.

Hankard credits the victim for providing excellent descriptions of both men and the quick response of the New Hampton Police and the New Hampshire State Police.

Cleveland Place roadway rebuilt, finally!

LACONIA — "I thought hell had frozen over," recalled Janet Flynn of Cleveland Place, when a crew from Busby Construction Company began reconstructing the South End street, an elbow macaroni-shaped loop of less than a quarter of a mile that connects Academy Street and Fair Street. "They did a good job," she continued. "This is lovely."

Paul Moynihan, director of Public Works, said that he did not know just when the street was last improved, but said "I've been with the city for 35 years and it hasn't been touched in my time." He said that much of roadway had deteriorated, leaving little more than a rutted track, while the flat terrain and inadequate drainage left the roadway and shoulders prone to flooding.

Eileen Pelchat said during heavy rains the children on the street changed into their swim suits and swam in the puddles, "pretending they were fish. We called it Cleveland Lake," she remarked with a smile. "We're were wondering if we'd have to pay property taxes for waterfront property."

Describing Cleveland Place as "a good neighborhood where everybody looks after everybody else," she said the new street only made it better.

Moynihan explained that the street was fully reconstructed with a two-inch base and one-inch top coat. Drainage was added and connected to the main on Fair Street and the sanitary sewer line was improved. He anticipated the final cost of the project would be about $90,000, of which $48,000 will have been spent on the street, $28,000 on the sewer and $14,500 on the drainage. He said that the paving will be completed with the asphalt wearing course  and shoulders will be leveled and turf restored in the next few weeks. 

"I love the new road," declared Tammy Haddock, who has lived on Cleveland Place for 17 years, "except for the bumps at both ends. I have a new car and I don't like the bumps." She also expressed concern for the safety of children who regularly ride bicycles and play games in the road, Haddock said that although the street carries little through traffic, apart from delivery trucks, the fresh pavement may lead drivers to increase their speeds.

Moynihan said that Cleveland Place was one many — perhaps 20 percent of all city streets — that have not been improved or rebuilt in the past 35 years. He explained that about $1 million was spent on roads and streets in 1987, 1991, 1994 and 1996, but since 1999 at least that much has been spent every year. The 2015-2016 budget, scheduled to be adopted this month, appropriates $1,750,000 for street repairs and City Manager Scott Myers has indicated he expects to budget about the same amount the following year..

In 2012-2013, an inventory and assessment of city streets found that the average "pavement condition index" (PCI)was 63 on a scale where 56 to 70 represents "fair." At the same time, the survey found that 26.2 miles, or 32 percent, of streets are in "failed" to "poor" condition with PCI s between 0 and 55 while 55.8 miles, or 55.8 percent, of streets are in "fair" to "good" condition with PCIs between 56 and 100. Roads in "fair" condition deteriorate rapidly and the cost of maintaining a road in "fair" condition is a third or a quarter that of repairing a road in "poor" or "failed" condition.
Lending priority to the maintenance of roads in "fair" condition makes optimal use of the available funds while some streets in "poor" or worse condition can be improved each year.Altogether five or six miles of roadway would be either repaved or reconstructed each year with an eye to raising the average PCI of city streets to at least 70 in the next eight to 10 years.
Meanwhile, a gentleman returning home to Cleveland Place from work voiced his approval of the reconstructed road, then remarked "we'll see how long it lasts."

City man indicted for automobile insurance fraud

BELMONT — A local man has been charged with a multiple counts of insurance fraud after allegedly applying to two separate insurance companies for coverage and filing duplicate claims — after he had an accident.

The N.H. Insurance Fraud Department sought and received indictments for Jose Montezuma, 46, in Merrimack County Superior Court in May and in Belknap County Superior Court in June.

The indictments allege that Montezuma struck a deer while driving his 1998 Ford Focus on Route 106 in Belmont on Dec. 27. He did not have insurance.

Two days later he allegedly bought a policy from Progressive and filed a claim. Progressive investigators learned the accident didn't happen when he said it did and denied his claim.

In January, Montezuma allegedly bought a policy from GEICO and filed a claim stating that his car had been hit in a parking lot while he wasn't in it.

GEICO estimated the damage to be $2,223 but an investigator realized Montezuma had posted pictures on his Facebook page three days after the accident. He withdrew his claim.

In March, Montezuma admitted to the allegations during an interview with a state Insurance Department investigator.

The maximum penalty for each felony offense is 7 to 15 years in prison and a $4,000 fine.