Editorials


 

Clean Water, Wetland Setbacks and Floods Seem to Raise People's Hackles in Raymond
 By Cheryl Killam   3-16-21

Raymond has two large bodies of water, Onway Lake and Governors Lake, many large ponds and wetlands and two rivers, the Lamprey River and the Exeter River flowing through it. Both rivers and lakes have flooded multiple times over the past 35 years.

~ Have you ever had your house flood? It’s devastating, especially if you do not have Flood Insurance. Even if you do have insurance, you would have to gut all of the walls and remove the insulation out of the walls to get rid of anything that got wet and could cause mold and breathing problems. You have to replace carpeting and furniture that sucked up water and throw out wet books and electronics that no longer work and other important possessions like family photos. Lawn mowers and vehicles that get flooded do not start very well with water in the engine  or transmissions.

Have you ever had the river or lake flood into your yard and all of your neighbors' junk from up the road is floating around your back yard and the kids' sand box is full of sediment? How about having the riverside garden center’s porta potty floating down river and it ends up in your back yard beside your gazebo?

That is what happened during the 2007 Mothers Day Flood and again in March of 2010. Many of the same houses flooded both times. The Conservation Commission tried to buy a few of the properties to remove the houses from the flood storage areas so the families could move elsewhere to higher drier ground, but it never happened.

Water flows downhill and underground, but when the ground is frozen, it flows where ever it wants to go and knows no boundaries and fills up the flood storage areas. If your house, garage or vehicle is in a wetland flood storage area, they will get flooded too.

When houses are built along shoreline areas bordering rivers or around lake fronts, what your neighbor does in their yard can impact your yard and the water.

 What if they dumped or spilled nasty stuff such as gas, oil or chemicals on their riverside or lake front property? It could have an impact not to just their yard but to the neighbors' yards as well. It could pollute the pond that has ornamental plants or fish in it or the stream that horses drink from. It could pollute your well that holds your drinking water and your neighbor’s well.

~ We all expect to have clean water. You’re going to say you are on town water and have all the clean water you want so all of this does not matter. Oh but it does, because the water towers in Raymond pull drinking water out of the aquifers around town that are filled by the rivers, streams and veins of water that flow underground through the soil and granite.

Riverside Park on Sundeen Parkway, and Cammet Field on Onway Lake Road are former excavation pits and are examples of flood storage areas. They are water protection aquifers that the town draws water from to fill the water towers with drinking water. Thankfully the former owners made sure they were retained for recreation areas and not built on.

Just look at the size of the area of the wetlands that had to be cleaned up and how many swamp trees had to be cut down and how much dirt had to be dug up from beside route 101 where the gas tanker truck rolled over and spilled at exit 6. If you drive by with the window open it still smells like gasoline.

~ Water is a very powerful force. During both the 2007 and the 2010 floods, a few of  Raymond’s major roads and bridges flooded and were impassable so the schools were closed.

The Old Bye Road bridge washed out in 2007 and that neighborhood of about 100 families were trapped at the development for over a week till the temporary bridge was put in place.  The Onway Lake Road Bridge needed to be replaced in 2017 due to the wetland stream flooding and washing the supporting banks away. Fortunately people could drive out via Langford Road.   

Yes a couple dams have been removed from the river over the years. This was done by the Lamprey River Watershed Association to allow fish to have an open water way up and down the rivers to swim and breed in.

The rivers still flood when we have heavy rain and melting in the spring.  When flood storage areas are used to build homes and roads and the waterways rise, this is what you get.

Just look at these pictures from the March 2010 flood of Old Manchester Road, Harriman Road between route 27 and Main Street, Main Street Pecker Bridge, Floral Avenue, School Street near IHGM School, the cemetery beside the Epping Street bridge, Langford Road Bridge and multiple places along route 27.

 

  

Old Manchester Road beside the river across from Tannery Site. .

 

  

Old Manchester Road Yellow House beside the Lamprey River .

 

  

This Jeep tried to cross Harriman Road from Main Street to Rt 27.

 

  

Main Street Pecker Bridge looking towards the Welch property.

 

  

House on the end of Floral Avenue beside the Lamprey River. .

 

  

Floral Avenue house right behind the Town Office. .

 

  

School Street home beside the Iber Holmes Gove Middle School .

  

~ So what do wetland setbacks have to do with floods?  Lets start with the definition of a wetland - a distinct ecosystem that is flooded by water, either permanently or seasonally, where oxygen-free processes prevail. The primary factor that distinquishes wetlands from other land forms or water bodies is the characteristic vegetaion of aquatic plants.

 I wonder how many of those folks whose houses flooded wished they never bought that house or they had built the house back 100 feet, 75 feet or even 50 feet from where it was sitting as they watched the water gush in and trash their house?

Twenty-five feet is the length of a medium camper, fifty feet is the length of a tractor trailer truck, one hundred feet is one third of a football field.  When it comes to wetland setbacks to maintain flood storage areas, more is better.  

Once banks of the water ways (wetlands, brooks, streams and rivers) erode and the root systems are dug up and destroyed, and the slopes are degraded, they can no longer absorb water or hold water back.

Most wetland regulations are established to prevent developers from excessive filling of wetlands. When developers need to fill larger areas of wetlands they must mitigate the loss of the wetland with the state, not the town, the state of New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services.

 Some say a wetland setback zoning takes away land owners' rights. Land owners can still grow grass, mow the grass, cut the weeds, plant a garden and build a gazebo or shed. Yes, they might need a variance or a special permit to build something but the land is still theirs to use and enjoy as they do. The Planning Board may ask the land owner to maintain a vegetative buffer or add some bushes if they want to build in the current 25 foot wetland buffer, to help prevent erosion.    

 Let’s say you want to sell your house and your neighbor wants to sell and the third neighbor wants to sell.  A town zoning just might discourage a developer with deep pockets from buying all three lots to put up a 4 story apartment in the middle of the neighborhood.   

 

  

Epping Street bridge with water flooding into the cemetary. .

 

  

Route 27 was flooded at Raymond Building Supply .

 

  

Riverside Park sign across from Raymond Animal Hospital .

 

  

Langford Road Bridge was closed. .

 

  

Route 27 Brown House with water half way up the first floor. .

  

All the accusations that “local government wants to control our land” are hogwash. These people who volunteer on the Planning Board and Conservation Commission do not have time or the interest to babysit what every land owner in town is doing on their property.

~ Conservation Commissions are advisory only and do not make or enforce any laws.  They exist in each town to help be pro-active rather than reactive, because once a natural resource is gone, it’s gone and so is the habitat for whatever plant or animal species used it.

Conservation Commission members would much rather be outdoors walking the trails of our town conservation properties, watching the beavers build their huts, floating in canoes, sitting lakeside watching the loons, photographing wildlife or any other activity rather than debating town warrant zoning articles.

~ It’s shocking to see how far people take freedom of speech on social media, people seem to have no boundaries anymore.  Whatever happened to respect, courtesy, mature reasonable discussions and finding ways to resolve differences without insulting others and chopping someone off at the knees?

Some of you would go ballistic if your kids were bullied the way our town volunteers were treated in Raymond this past month, so why do you think it’s OK to bully other adults?

Those who signed onto town boards to give their time to do a job for the residents have the best interest of the town in mind. Whether you agree with them or not, they are your fellow neighbors serving the community and deserve to be treated respectfully.

In full disclosure, yes I was the chair of the conservation commission and a member for many years. I worked to protect the three largest open space properties in town;  Dearborn Property, Cassier Forest and Flint Hill, for residents to enjoy year-round. Yes I have wetlands on my property and it floods every springtime, and yes I am happy that I can be over a hundred feet from the wetlands when they flood.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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