Nearly $1 million spent to preserve 218 acres along Pennichuck Brook in south Merrimack, near Nashua border
Friday, October 4, 2013
MERRIMACK – Nearly $1 million paid to make up for wetland damage from the expansion of Nashua airport and construction of the Broad Street Parkway has been used to preserve 218 acres of wetland and woods owned by Pennichuck in south Merrimack near the Nashua border.
The land is off Continental Boulevard and lies on the north side of Pennichuck Brook, which forms part of the city’s northern border. It runs roughly from the Pennichuck Square development east to Tinker Road.
A conservation easement for the property was bought by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, using about $960,000 in what are known as Aquatic Resources Mitigation funds. That money is paid to balance out damage to wetlands or water supplies done during other developments in a program overseen by the state Department of Environmental Services.
It is the largest ARM grant in the history of the DES program, a reflection of the property’s value for the environment and local water supply. Pennichuck Brook is part of the system used by Pennichuck Corp. to provide drinking water for Nashua and surrounding communities.
Pennichuck Corp. CEO John Patenaude said the preservation has been in the works since before the water company was acquired by the city of Nashua in 2012, with an eye toward using some of the wetlands-mitigation money paid by Nashua developments.
“The airport authority had to put some money in the ARM fund and there was no way to get it back to Nashua. We worked with the city and with DES and the forest society to get a portion of that money to come back here,” he said.
He said roughly $700 000 came from the payments into the ARM fund by the airport, which filled some wetlands when it expanded its runway last year; $220,000 from Broad Street Parkway work, and $40,000 from a Manchester Street bridge project.
The forest society said the property includes a 14-nest heron rookery and “more than 63 acres of wetlands, ranging from forested to vernal pools to open water.” It’s also home to a state-endangered wetlands plant called Bidens laevis.
The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department classifies 95 percent of the property as Tier 1 habitat, the best in the state, the forest society said. Much of it is bordered by chain-link fence, to protect drinking water supplies.
Pennichuck Corp. still owns about 200 acres of land that has no legal protection from development, Patenaude said, noting that the company has no desire to develop any of it.
The development of land owned by the Pennichuck Corp. was extremely controversial in the years leading up to its acquisition by the city.