Over 200 Attend DES Hearing on Wild Goose Boat Launch

By Katie Richardson

The Department of Environmental Services Wetlands Bureau held a public hearing at Sherburne Gym in Sunapee on Wednesday night.

Over 200 were in attendance to discuss New Hampshire Fish and Game’s application for a wetlands permit, needed for the proposed public boat launch on Lake Sunapee.  Having already received a shoreland impact permit, Fish and Game must obtain a wetlands permit in order to move forward with the launch planned for what is locally known as Wild Goose in Newbury.

The Wild Goose property, purchased by the state in 1990, is on the western shore of Lake Sunapee, north of the state beach.  The proposed project is to “construct two public boat ramps with parking for 31 car/trailer and 12 cars impacting 1500 sq. feet” on Birch Grove Road in Newbury.  The installation of another public boat launch at Wild Goose has long  been a contentious issue, with environmental and safety concerns heading the opposition’s list.

Fish and Game Executive Director Glenn Normandeau attended the hearing and gave an overview of the launch with assistance from the project’s engineer and environmental consultant.

Those opposing the launch were quick to speak up, beginning with selectman Dick Wright of Newbury.  “We as a board of selectman do not oppose additional public access,” he stated, “but we do not believe the issues of safety have been addressed.”  Though safety was not the intended subject of the evening, several Newbury residents made mention of it, agreeing with Wright that vehicles hauling boat trailers would be a hazard entering and exiting Route 103’s 50 mile an hour zone.  Wright also took issue with fact that the launch proposal is not in compliance with Newbury zoning ordinances.

Katheryn Holmes, chair of the Newbury conservation commission, was the first to speak to the environmental concerns.  She felt the plan was in violation of the state’s Shorelands Protection Act and urged DES to protect Wild Goose from development.  “We encourage the Wetlands Bureau to deny Fish and Game a wetlands permit.  Let Wild Goose stay wild,” she said.

June Fichter, Executive Director of the Lake Sunapee Protective Association, honed in on the extensive dredging the project would require.  The LSPA advocates for an upgrade of the boat launch at Sunapee State Beach rather than a new launch at Wild Goose, reasoning that the impact to the shoreline would be far less.  Fichter said only 1400 yards of dredging would be required at the State Beach, versus 5000 yards at Wild Goose.

Fichter’s other concern was the lake as a source for drinking water.  She said inadequate filtration at the site will negatively affect the water quality.  Fichter informed the public that $20,000-25,000 a year is now spent on milfoil control and asserted that an additional launch would require more expenditure in that area.

Atty. Howard Dunn, representing the Sullivan County Sportsmen Association, presented DES with a petition of over 900 New Hampshire residents in favor of the launch.  He stated there is “a terrific need for more access to the lake”, a sentiment echoed by several members of the association present.  Reggie Dodge of Newport expressed his frustration that fisherman have long been prevented from launching a boat on Lake Sunapee by inadequate parking for vehicles and trailers.

The hearing was attended by State Rep. Ricia McMahon (D-Sutton), State Rep. Suzanne Gottling (D-Sunapee), State Rep. Thomas Howard (R-Croydon), State Rep. Dave Kidder (R-New London) and State Rep. Beverly Rodeschin (R-Newport).  Members of the Newbury and Sunapee selectboards were in attendance, as were LSPA President Deb Benjamin, former Fish and Game Executive Director Don Clarke, Newbury Police Chief Bob Lee, New Hampshire Wildlife Federation Communications Director Bob Dufraine, Newbury Town Administrator Dennis Pavlicek and Sunapee Town Manager Donna Nashawaty.

Normandeau concluded the meeting by stating his wish to put this long-debated subject to rest one way or the other.  “I recognize everyone has a point of view,” he said, “and I respect all of them.”

DES will accept written public comment on the wetland application through June 26.

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