Wild Goose flap continues at Fish & Game Commission meetingBy BEA LEWIS
Union Leader Correspondent September 20. 2017 10:53PM
GILFORD — Gov. Chris Sununu’s establishment of a commission to help decide the future of the controversial Wild Goose property on Lake Sunapee has done little to heal the wounds of those who worked hard to open it for public boat access.
During a meeting of the New Hampshire Fish & Game Commission held at Gunstock Recreation Area, the governor’s decision to abruptly scuttle the project that has been talked about for 26 years prompted several public rebukes.
Fish & Game Director Glenn Normandeau recounted that he was getting a haircut when the governor called and told him that he intended to pull the renewal of the project’s wetland permit off the Governor and Executive Council’s meeting agenda. The director said he was shocked by the decision, as Sununu had previously told him he supported the project.
“I didn’t really know what to say to him, other than there would probably be some pushback,” Normandeau said during Wednesday’s meeting. After fielding the call, Normandeau said, he spoke with the Department of Environmental Services and the Attorney General’s Office and learned Fish & Game would be unlikely to prevail if they disputed the decision. He also declined two requests that his agency join appeal efforts either publicly or behind the scenes.
“Ultimately, at the end of the day, I essentially work for the governor. He has said under no circumstances is Wild Goose going to be built, and that has pretty much clipped my wings as far as this proposal goes.”
Soon after speaking with the governor, Normandeau told the commissioners he collected his thoughts and sent an email to the governor’s office suggesting that before the issue hit the news they should meet and talk about it.
When Normandeau turned on his television the next morning, he watched a newscast in which the governor was explaining the rationale for his decision.
Normandeau did propose disposition of the property in an email to the governor’s chief of staff. The Fish & Game Department has spent more than $400,000 on the project to date, mostly in engineering and design work.
The director said he suggested the state sell the property “in hopes of getting some of our funding back from this whole fiasco.”
“I’m disappointed. I think I’ve put in more time on this project than any other since I’ve been director.”
Dick Smith of Hancock, who is the Conservation Director for the N.H. Bass Federation, said he was speaking on behalf of a quarter million anglers and the owners of 100,000 registered boats.
“The governor, frankly is trying to screw us. When you add those two numbers I think that’s a lot more voter power than around Lake Sunapee.”
While saying he appreciates that state agencies are limited in what they can do, he said anglers and boaters aren’t going to forget Sununu’s actions, and said he attended the meeting to ask the commissioners to help out.
“Somehow, someway the property owners around Lake Sunapee have been able to dig in around the Governor. I don’t want to give up on Wild Goose or sell it. It has been studied over 20 years, thoroughly vetted and should be built as intended.”
The N.H. Bass Federation and the Sullivan County Sportsman Club are among those who have filed a lawsuit in Sullivan County Superior Court challenging the practice not policy of bringing a wetlands permit extension request back to the Executive Council for approval.
Typically once a permit is approved it is acted on immediately as the process takes so long, Normandeau said.
Among those who rebuked the governor for his action to abruptly scuttle a 26-year effort to provide public access to launch boats on Lake Sunapee was Commissioner Tom Hubert who represents Sullivan County.
“I don’t think there is anyone more disappointed in the governor’s actions,” said Hubert noting that one of the commission’s primary roles is acquisition of public access.
“He is preventing us from doing our jobs and has thwarted due process in this case beyond belief,” said Hubert. “This is wealthy landowners and he has confirmed that it is their lake.”
The commissioner also faulted the governor’s establishment of a commission to ostensibly decide the fate of the property. The 15-member commission will prepare a report with recommendations by March 1.
Hubert and others at the meeting said the commission’s membership was weighed with two members from each of the three towns that border the state’s sixth largest lake, and that it lacked any representation by anglers or boaters.
“The ability to hunt and to fish is about access, and he has stepped into this half-way,” Hubert lamented.
Commissioner Chairman Ted Tichy, who earlier announced that it was most likely his last meeting as the governor has nominated a new commissioner to represents Coos County, urged Smith to get other angler groups and boaters to write or email the governor and their local representatives and make their feelings known.
“I’m hoping this will continue,” Tichy said of his desire to see a public access boat ramp built on the Wild Goose property.