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Former Gov. Thomson fought to keep Coast Guard off NH lakes

April 28. 2013 12:13AM
The headline from a 1975 Union Leader story about then-Gov. Meldrim Thomson's plans to fight the U.S. Coast Guard's attempts to patrol certain bodies of water in New Hampshire. 

The following is the text of the letter written by Gov. Meldrim Thomson to the U.S. secretary of transportation in 1975. It was published as part of a Union Leader story published Dec. 10 of that year.

"Dear Mr. Secretary: I am writing to express my grave concern along with that of thousands of other New Hampshire citizens over a recent finding by the Commandant, U.S. Coast Guard. In his finding he has declared certain bodies of water within our state as navigable waters of the United States to wit: Lakes Winnipesaukee and Winnisquam, the Merrimack River and all the interconnecting waterways in New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

"This decision was made on Sept. 2, 1975, and I was notified of the fact Sept. 26, 1975, by letter from the Commander, 1st Coast Guard District.

"First of all, I must express my extreme displeasure with the manner in which this entire matter was handled.

"To my knowledge, not one state official responsible for our lakes, or the licensing of boats, or for the enforcement of our boating laws was ever contacted relative to this matter. My office was not contacted during any time that this so-called 'finding' was being prepared.

"To me, it is clearly another case of the Federal government making a unilateral decision affecting a state without any consultation, public hearing or advance notice.

"I have reviewed the historical matter accompanying the decision and wish to state that I do not agree with the conclusions based on the evidence as stated.

"My staff informs me that the effect of the finding will be to prevent the state from collecting fees for boat registration and boat plates, which is provided under New Hampshire RSA 270.

"I have to be concerned about this loss of revenue because of the fact that the New Hampshire Legislature will not meet again in regular session until the first Wednesday of January 1977.

"In addition, the boating safety operations which will have to be carried on by the State of New Hampshire in the summer of 1976 are funded by projected revenues based on our present laws, thus not allowing for any legislative remedies between now and the summer of 1977.

"I want to inform you that I am contemplating seeking judicial review of the Commandant's decision of navigability under the Federal Administrative Procedure Act (APA).

"In the meantime, I am respectfully requesting you grant the State of New Hampshire a two-year moratorium by reversing the Commandant's decision thus allowing the State of New Hampshire to seek relief in the courts and to allow the New Hampshire Legislature time to pass appropriate legislation to replace the loss of revenue which is about to occur as a result of this decision.

"In closing, I want to impress upon you that, as Governor of the State of New Hampshire, I consider this action a blatant usurpation of the sovereignty of our State and particularly the certain bodies of water named in the decision. I intend to use all of the courts to seek a complete reversal of this decision."

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