It has been a busy past few weeks as NH LAKES has been intensively weighing-in on several pieces of proposed legislation introduced into the New Hampshire Legislature. I have been communicating daily, sometimes hourly, with our statewide conservation partners, state agency staff, legislators, and within the NH LAKES Public Policy and Advocacy Committee, about proposed bills and amendments that would impact our lakes.
Most bills are still within their respective house of origin (Senate or House of Representatives) as the crossover deadline (when they travel to the other side) is not until March 30. Our best opportunity to influence bills is now—while they are are in their early stages—before positions are set and momentum potentially moves away from us.
The best way for you to stay apprised of bills is to first take a few minutes to read through them (click on the links below). Then, if you feel strongly one way or another, or have concerns or suggestions, please contact me directly. The more I can learn from you about the potential impacts of pending legislation on our lakes, the better equipped NH LAKES will be to negotiate in this fast-paced legislative environment.
Here are the most significant bills that we are currently working on:
House Bill 195, AN ACT establishing a committee to study temporary seasonal docks.
This issue came up a year ago when it was proposed that the sideline property setback for temporary seasonal docks be reduced from 20 feet to 10 feet. Although NH LAKES was concerned with the safety issues that could result from this change, we supported the bill going to study. HB 195 would create that study committee to review the dock permitting program and report back to the legislature by fall 2017. The bill is currently in subcommittee.
Senate Bill 30, AN ACT defining woodland buffers and relative to such woodland buffers for the purposes of the shoreland protection act.
This bill was introduced by the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) primarily to close a loophole in the Shoreland Water Quality Protection Act that was allowing people to completely clear relatively wide swaths of shorefront property, while still meeting the overall vegetated buffer standards (i.e.; the point system) of the Shoreland Act. NH LAKES supports the changes as proposed by NHDES.
Senate Bill 48, AN ACT establishing a commission to study changes to the fish and game commission and department.
NH LAKES supports expanding funding to the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department for all the programs and activities it is responsible for, and to have a governance body and model more consistent with that broad mission and with the rest of state government.
Senate Bill 118, AN ACT relative to impervious surfaces under the shoreland water quality protection act.
This bill would remove grass (lawn) from the definition of impervious surfaces under the Shoreland Water Quality Protection Act. NH LAKES is not opposed to this basic change. However, we have resisted efforts to further amend this bill to allow vegetated buffer points to be awarded for grass or lawn areas.
Senate Bill 119, AN ACT relative to the length of a dock on a water body.
This bill (amended, but not yet available) would allow, on lakes more than 1,000 acres in size, docks to extend from 40 feet up to 75 feet in length, if necessary until a depth of 36 inches of water is reached. At this time, NH LAKES is advocating for this proposal to be considered more holistically in the context of the entire NHDES dock permitting program, perhaps in the same process that is envisioned with HB 195.
We will keep you posted as these bills, and others, wind their way through the legislative process In the meantime, please let us know what you think about these, or any other bills. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (603) 226-0299.
On behalf of the New Hampshire Lakes Association,
President and Policy Advocate