Local Advisory Council discusses river projects

MILFORD – The health and future of the Souhegan River are in good hands, those who love the river and want it to be used by everyone and kept clear.

Since 2000, when the Souhegan was named part of the New Hampshire Rivers Management Protection Program, a Local Advisory Council has been charged with looking after the river’s best interests.

Several rivers were selected by the state for protection because of their outstanding cultural and natural features. Much of the Souhegan flows through undeveloped land. Where it flows through towns, there are numerous old mills and much local history.

The Council’s scope extends 1,000 feet along both sides of the river, and includes commenting on all applications for projects along the river, developing a local river management plan in connection with town planners, and working with the New Hampshire River Management Advisory Committee.

George May, of Merrimack, is the current chairman. Member towns include New Ipswich, Greenville, Wilton, Milford, Amherst and Merrimack.

The council generally meets in Milford on the third Thursday of the month to discuss whatever projects are under consideration. At their November meeting at the Wadleigh Library topics ranged from the removal of Milford’s “green bridge” (which they approve providing all of the abutments are removed), supporting the removal of Milford’s dams and the monitoring of the area near Keyes Field. They advocate guardrails along Route 31 south (Greenville Road) where cars have gone into the river, but since it is a scenic area, they prefer “scenic type” rails, dark colored with wooden posts.

They are watching housing developments in both Merrimack and New Ipswich which affect the river.

They heard a report from Jill Longval of Nashua Regional Planning Commission concerning last year’s evaluation of the riverbanks for erosion and discussed how that information can be used.

The report includes the condition of culverts in certain sections of the river and has gone into each town’s Hazard Mitigation programs.

The Souhegan River is formed by the confluence of the south and west branches in New Ipswich and flows about 33 miles from there to the Merrimack River in Merrimack. The Advisory Council is made up of members from the six towns through which it flows.

The river is widely used by fishermen, and is stocked regularly with trout. It supports two wastewater treatment plants, several golf courses, and local farms. It once supported numerous manufacturing plants.

SoRLAC works with the Souhegan Watershed Association, which was established in 1995 to monitor the entire watershed which includes parts of 11 towns in New Hampshire and two in Massachusetts, with about 35,000 people. SWA provides educational programs, sponsored the restoration of Atlantic salmon, oversees the water quality monitoring during the summer, sponsors canoe trips, and holds several riverside cleanups each year. The fast-moving stretch of white water through Greenville into Wilton is a popular kayak launch during spring high water.

They have noted the presence of 28 threatened or endangered species within the watershed.

SoRLAC also works closely with Merrimack Rivers Council and Nashua Regional Planning Commission. Council members are usually members of the local Conservation Commission.

Information can be found at www.souhegan
river.org, through NRPC, or at riversprogram@des.nh.gov.