Do not disturb is ther riverbed rule in NashuaBy KIMBERLY HOUGHTON
Union Leader Correspondent August 15. 2013 10:22PM
NASHUA — There are several different entities working to bring the Nashua River back to its former glory and all of them have the same goal in mind — to protect the city's precious watershed.
However, while citizens and city officials hope to have some of the riverbed cleaned up before the Nashua River's water level is restored to its normal height in October, a wetlands official is warning of the dangers of disturbing river sediments.
Collis Adams, administrator of the wetlands bureau at the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, says there is a great opportunity right now to remove some of the debris, trash and fallen branches or shrubs now exposed along the riverbed since the water level was lowered about 10 feet to allow for improvements to the Jackson Falls Dam.
Despite this window of opportunity, Adams stressed that any sunken logs, roots or stumps should not be disturbed.
"You don't want to create an environmental issue," Adams told a group of residents Thursday participating in a citizen's forum addressing the needs of the Nashua River. Whatever lies below the river's muck should remain, according to Adams, who said river sediment should not be disturbed because it could reintroduce unwanted contaminants into the water flow.
A portion of the Nashua River is exempt from the state's Shoreland Water Quality Protection Act, however, if work is done within the 75-foot wetlands buffer it would need to be approved by the Nashua Conservation Commission.
Alderman-at-Large Barbara Pressly hosted Thursday's forum, in part because she would like to see the exposed riverbed and the granite walls photographed and documented before the water is restored to its normal height this fall. She is also hoping to have a downtown section of the river cleaned up in the next few weeks.
Mayor Donnalee Lozeau said several efforts are under way focusing on the health and beauty of not only the Nashua River, but other water bodies in the city as well. She recently formed a new Nashua Waterways Committee that will address many of the concerns.
"There is just this whole host of opportunities," said Lozeau, noting the adjustable crest gate being constructed at the dam will remove several properties from the city's flood zone.
As work progresses on the dam, Lozeau said the city is working with developer John Stabile during the cleanup of the cofferdam to fix some of the trees growing outside of the granite wall near the Nashua Public Library.
"A lot of this cleanup is going to be taking place," she said, adding price estimates have been collected on how much it would cost to clean up even more of the river.
There is significant debris behind the highway in the area of Home Depot and Shorty's Restaurant, according to Lozeau, most of that because of plowing during the winter. There are plans to clean up the river from the dam out to Coliseum Avenue, she added.
It could cost about $15,000 to have the extra portion of the river cleaned, and that monetary request is expected to go before the aldermanic Budget Committee in the near future, she said. Escrow funds could be used for the project, the mayor said.
"We don't want people walking in there," she said, maintaining citizen volunteers would be helpful for some work but not the clearing of the riverbed.
The project is already being videotaped and photographed near the dam, and the city is working with the Nashua River Watershed Association and the Lower Merrimack River Local Advisory Committee to catalog some of the details, said Lozeau.
It is one thing to pick up trash along the river's edge, but it is another to enter the riverbed and start removing debris, according to Kathryn Nelson, one of the new Waterway Committee members.
Sherry Dutzy of the Nashua Conservation Commission agreed.
"I think there might be a feeling of pressure because the water is low," said Dutzy, reassuring those in attendance that a long-term plan would be more appropriate as those individuals with a vested interest in the river attempt to remove invasive species.
There are currently six invasive species in the Nashua River, according to Lozeau. Her husband, David Lozeau, said one of those species — the water chestnut — has been actively addressed for several years in the city.
The final water chestnut pull of the season is this weekend, he said, asking anyone who wants to help to arrive at the Mine Falls boat ramp at 8 a.m. Saturday with gloves and either a canoe or kayak.