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Algae in NH lake water may be more common as climate changes

By ADAM DRAPCHO, LACONIA DAILY SUN

This summer was dry and hot, and for Tom O'Brien, president of the New Hampshire Lakes Association, the result was predictable: low water quality, especially with regard to algal blooms, which are unpleasant in general, and in the case of cyanobacteria, toxic to humans and animals.

Cyanobacteria is nothing new, O'Brien noted, as it's one of the oldest life forms on Earth. However, if climate forecasts prove accurate, algal blooms could be an increasing problem in New Hampshire's lakes.

"When we look at the climate and precipitation data that's coming out of DES and New Hampshire EPA, what it indicates is significant changes," O'Brien said. In the years to come, New Hampshire should expect to see gradually rising average temperatures, and precipitation that occurs less frequently but more severely. If that's true, algal blooms could become a regular part of the lake experience.

"If, in fact, temperatures are warming, and that precipitation patterns are changing ... those would have a direct impact on the condition of lakes," said O'Brien. Warmer ambient temperatures results in warmer water, and the amount of oxygen present in water decreases as temperature increases. That makes the water less hospitable to certain animals, such as trout, and it makes for better growing conditions for algae.

Algae also thrive in water that is rich in nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorous, chemicals which are often used in fertilizers. If fertilizers are used near lakes, or streams that feed into lakes, rain can sweep those nutrients into the lakes, where they will accelerate aquatic plant and algae growth. The chemical runoff is especially bad in heavy rain events, when the water falls so quickly that the soil can't absorb the water – instead, the rainwater runs along the top of the ground, absorbing and carrying with it any soluble chemical.

What's concerning to O'Brien is the observation of climate scientists that one change, already noticed and expected to continue, that places like New Hampshire are likely to have fewer rainfalls, but when it does rain, the rain will be heavier. That means more contamination, unless people who live near lakes, rivers and streams change the way they manage their properties.

"By and large, the two greatest threats we see are the spread of invasive plants and animals, and stormwater runoff," said O'Brien. The Lakes Association has focused on the first of those two threats in recent years, establishing the Lake Host monitoring program that educates and encourages boaters to clean off their boats before and after using them in a water body. This year, the Lakes Association celebrated the passing of a law that will make that behavior required by law.

With those achievements completed, O'Brien said the association is turning its attention to the problem of stormwater runoff. A survey of the community's sentiments on the problem was recently issued; those that would like to take it can find a link at nhlakes.org. O'Brien said the survey results will help drive specific actions the association pursues in coming years, and that it's also a tool to help provoke contemplation for those, especially lakeside residents, who take it.

For those who are looking to buy a lakeside home, it's tempting to think of a verdant lawn stretching right to the shoreline. After all, why make the expense of a waterfront residence except the desire to enjoy the water?

"We always run the risk of loving our lakes to death," said O'Brien. "What we're asking people to do is to look in the mirror, ask them if they're willing to make the changes necessary... We're trying to change human behavior."

If no changes are made, and algal blooms continue to make lakes an unpleasant place to be, there could be negative effects on property values, which would then affect the rest of the communities that depend upon tax revenue from lakeside properties.

While the NH Lakes Association doesn't currently have specific actions in mind at this point, results from the survey will be used to inform the development of a strategy.

"Frankly, the laws are not sufficient to protect our water quality," he said.

 

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Water from Lake Winnipesaukee flows through the Lakeport Dam and into Lake Opechee. The New Hampshire Lakes Association is turning its focus from invasive species to water quality, especially as affected by climate trends. (Adam Drapcho/Laconia Daily Sun)

Bank of New Hampshrire Pavilion plans paved parking lots, new portable toilets

GILFORD — A proposal for paved parking lots and new portable toilets at The Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion will go before the Planning Board this month for a site plan amendment.

Owner R.J. Harding also said the improvements call for a building to house the services of both the police department and the fire department.

"When they are happy, I am happy," Harding said, adding that the two agencies regularly work together at concerts and it would be easier for them to be in the same place.

Harding said these are a few of the many improvements he has planned for the concert venue over time. He said the four included in this month's Planning Board request are the ones he plans on completing before winter.

He said there are at least two more upgrades he would like to complete before the concert season starts next summer and he will be filing requests to the Planning Board for them over the fall and winter.

"We are always striving to be better and to make an enjoyable venue for our guests and employees," he said.

– Gail Ober

Gilford’s proposed budget includes creating town’s own local transfer station

By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN

GILFORD – A $1 million dollar proposed bond for a new transfer station heads the list of items the town is proposing as part of its 2017 budget as presented in its preliminary form to the Budget Committee Thursday night.

By building a town transfer station, Gilford will sever its long-standing ties to the Laconia Transfer Station and possibly lower garbage collection and disposal costs for residents in the long term.

Other major projects for next year included $450,000 for Town Hall Phase 2 improvements, which will be paid for from the town surplus and $200,000 for a down payment on a lease for a new fire engine that will come from a capital fund. These three recommended purchases will have no direct effect on the tax rate.

Selectmen have also recommended hiring two new firefighters who will begin working in June of 2017 for a cost of $78,660 in 2017.

A request for an additional police officer was rejected by the Selectboard because its members believe that it has only been a year since the department has been fully staffed at 18 sworn officers and the board wants to give the department more time to evaluate the full staff.

Additionally, part of the reason for the request for an additional officer was the activity at the Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion. Selectmen said the pavilion should be paying its own way as far a police needs.

Selectmen also noted the Gilford Police Department has more sworn officers than other area departments that work in towns about the same size as Gilford.

Selectmen budgeted merit pay increases at an average of 2.5 percent for a total of $56,600. Town Administrator Scott Dunn said the town is in the process of amending merit raised for non-union staff to reduce the average from 3.1 percent to 2.5 percent.

In total, the selectman's proposed budget, which doesn't include final numbers on unemployment insurance, health insurance and property and casualty insurance that come in mid October, has an estimated tax increase of 11 cents or 2.02 percent.

Dunn said the revised budget will be sent to the Budget Committee by Nov. 3.

The board also noted that $2,888,876 was eliminated by it from the overall requests presented by the individual department heads.

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