Monday, November 19, 2007

Nashua & Pennichuck Water Works

As many of you know, I am a lawyer for the firm of Upton & Hatfield and have spent the last 4 years representing the City of Nashua in its efforts to acquire the Pennichuck Water Works.

The case went to trial during the month of September before the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission. There were some 15,000 pages of exhibits and over 25 witnesses. On November 16, 2007, we submitted a 75 page brief outlining the City's case that is hosted on the City's web site: A copy of the brief and can be downloaded here.

I won't promise that it's as exciting as Harry Potter. However, those interested in utility, water supply or municipal government issues may find it interesting.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Gratuitous Pictures of the Kids

I've been woefully inadequate in updating this blog with anything beyond the day to day details of the Newington Conservation Commission's minutes and dealings with the PDA. In my defense, the last two months have disproved the theory that there are only 4.3 weeks in month.... when push comes to shove, I've discovered its possible to work 260+ hours in a single month.

Unfortunately, I'm not prepared to advance this blog just yet. However, some pictures of kids at the Newington September-fest may start to turn the tide.

Balloon time at Fox Point during the puppet show; and "Joser" pointing at a horse while Elsa waits in line in the background with the "big girls".

Commission Meeting November 8, 2007

The Newington Conservation Commission will meet again on November 8, 2007. The package and agenda can be downloaded here. We meet at 7 PM at the Town Hall in Newington, NH.

Unfortunately, the PDA has now completed its legal maneauverings to have the prime wetlands designation for all wetlands on the PDA-owned property invalidated. This places the burden on the Conservation Commission to either appeal the NHDES permit for the 100 Arboretum Drive project adjacent to prime wetlands, or simply recognize that the PDA has no wetlands protections in place.

I won't discuss the NHDES reasoning in detail here as the matter is likely to end up in the courts. However, there are significant flaws with the NHDES's reasoning. Unfortunately, the PDA is extremely well connected both legally and politically, and it is likely to take an independent court such as the NH Supreme Court to resolve the issue.

-Justin Richardson, Chairman
Newington Conservation Commission

Monday, October 22, 2007

Agenda and Package October 25, 2007

A copy of the Newington Conservation Commission agenda and package for October 25, 2007 can be downloaded here. We meet at 7 PM at the Town Hall in Newington, NH.

The meeting will hopefully allow us to catch up on a number of items we have post-poned for far too long due to lack of follow up and time during our once-a-month meetings, including: development of stormwater regulations; use of the air mitigation fund to improve air quality in Newington; town-wide curbside recycling; updates to landscaping plan guidelines, wetlands definitions and other matters.

Hope to see you there.

-Justin Richardson, Chairman
Newington Conservation Commission

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Conservation Commission Agenda for October 11, 2007

It's late, I'm tired, so just the agenda and package today without comment.

It's 5 MB total, and several items could not make the final list because of the number of projects.
You can download it here.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Conservation Commission Meeting October 11, 2007

My apologies for the delays this week. It's entirely excusable in my opinion, as I have been involved in a trial the entire month of September. As some of you may know, I represent the City of Nashua in its efforts to acquire the Pennichuck Water Works. There was a recent editorial in the Nashua Telegraph supporting the City's efforts here. To say I have been working "day and night" on this would be an understatement.

I was unable to complete the agenda and package this evening (10-8-2007) but I hope to have the agenda and package live tomorrow. Stay tuned.

Our meeting looks to be a busy one. Most noteworthy, the PDA appears set to challenge the prime wetlands designation approved by the NHDES in January 2006.

Hope you enjoy the picture below from the Town's annual Septemberfest.


Friday, September 14, 2007

Correction and Update

My last post identified the small whorled pogonia as the endangered species adjacent to the Farley White project. In fact, it turns out the species is the bulbous bittercress, pictured below.

I understand that at a recent planning board meeting, the PDA indicated it intends to disregard the prime wetlands designation, leaving the Conservation Commission with little choice but to seek to uphold its designation.

Under RSA 12-G, the PDA adopts its own zoning regulations and projects are reviewed by the Newington Planning Board but under PDA regs and not those of the town. The PDA has no wetlands regulations in place. When I last checked a year ago, the word wetlands is mentioned a total of two times in its site plan and subdivision regs. There are no buffers, setbacks, or other requirements related to wetlands on PDA property.

The Commission meets again the second thursday in October.


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Conservation Commission Meeting on September 6, 2007

The Commission will meet on September 6, 2007 at 7 PM at the Town Hall.

There are two relatively minor wetlands projects on the agenda, and an expansion of an existing commercial facility on Pease located on Arboretum Drive. The project is not without controversy: it is adjacent to a wetland on Pease that the NH Department of Environmental Services approved as a prime wetland. Unbeknownst to the Town, the PDA subsequently obtained a letter from its attorney at the NH Department of Justice stating that the prime wetlands designation was an invalid local land use control on the PDA property. The Commission is not convinced and, if an agreement cannot be reached, the dispute could end up in the legal system. A copy of the letter is contained in the package that can be downloaded here. [The package is 5 MB this month, my apologies].

The wetland in question contains an endangered plant species, the small whorled pogonia, [EDIT: This is incorrect, see subsequent post.] so the question is not merely academic. However, based on a preliminary look at the plans, it apears that the parking lots are located outside the 100 foot buffer for prime wetlands. According to the project engineer, the only portions of the project within the buffer are stormwater management facilities and they are located 25 feet from the wetland. This needs further review, but hopefully the project can move forward without any impact on the pogonias.

Further information is contained in the package. Feel free to come to the meeting. Unfortunately, I am in a trial for the entire month of September beginning on the 4th, so I am unlikely to be there.


Monday, July 30, 2007

Newington Cons. Commission Agenda for August 2, 2006

It's late so I won't spend much time elaborating on the Newington Conservation Commission's agenda for August 2, 2007.

You can download the agenda and the information package here. The agenda looks fairly busy.

Of particular note, the Commission will consider taking steps to have the Town adopt regulation of discharge of stormwater pollution. This is the leading cause of non-attainment with the State's water quality standards and a major source of pollution in Great Bay and the Piscataqua River. Representatives from both the New Hampshire Estuaries Project and the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, Coastal Program will be present for the discussion.

Please come to our meeting at the Town Hall at 7 PM on August 2, 2007 to learn more.

Back from Vacation

My apologies for the lack of updates this month. I managed to get away from the office and the computer for a good part of July.

First I'll share some vacation pictures and, later today or tomorrow, provide the agenda and package for the Newington Conservation Commission's August 2, 2007 meeting that are being finalized today.

The picture on the left was taken at the mouth of the Saco River near Biddeford Pool, Maine.
On the right are Elsa and Josephine enjoying their second and first boat trips. Their friends Julian and Vivian (green hat) came along for the ride as well. Elsa asked repeatedly "Can we go fast again Daddy?". I was forced to oblige :)

Elsa at the helm, Julian on the watch!.
My apologies to those of those of you with boating experience that otice a major safety violation. In my defense, we were at least at anchor (not that it matters) and I did not realize the life vest was off until I was looking back at the pictures.

Did I mention that blackberries were in season?

Thursday, June 28, 2007

July 5, 2007 Conservation Commission Agenda

July 5th, 2007 looks to be a short meeting for the Newington Conservation Commission due to vacations and some project postponements.

However, two new projects are on the agenda. The first to consider a landowner request that the Town acquire a 6 acre parcel of land on Great Bay in lieu of it being sold for development. The second project involves a preliminary proposal to add a deck on an existing home near Great Bay.

The more interesting discussions relate to proposal discussed at our June meeting. These include:

Development of storm water regulations to help control non-point source pollution. According to the NH Department of Environmental Services stormwater runoff from impervious surfaces is the leading cause of non-attainment with the State's water quality standards established under the Clean Water Act.

The Commission is considering working with the New Hampshire Estuaries Project, the NHDES and other resource agencies to adopt controls on stormwater pollution in Great Bay and the Piscataqua River. According to one study by the NHDES Coastal Program, the commercial and industrially developed areas around Paul Brook in Newington had both the highest levels of imperviousness in the watershed and turbidity (i.e. silt) levels of the 10 locations evaluated on the Seacoast.

Silt laden stormwater shown here discharging into Little Bay below Exit 4 in July 2006, is the leading cause of non-point pollution in New Hampshire.

The surface of silt particles in stormwater often traps metals, oils, and other pollutants and carries them to surface waters, resulting in their concentration in aquatic life, increased water temperature, nutrient levels and reduced oxygen.

Technologies are being evaluated at the UNH Stormwater Center that can reduce the impact of stormwater pollution significantly.

The Commission will also continue its discussion of using the state's Air Pollution Mitigation Fund for projects in Newington, expansion of recycling, and other items.

The Commission's Agenda and information package for the meeting containing some of the relevant documents can be downloaded here.

The meeting begins at 7 PM and is open to the public. Please feel free to come by and share your thoughts on these or other matters.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Weekend in Dixville Notch

We spent the weekend at the Balsams resort in Dixville Notch, New Hampshire for the Annual Meeting of the NH Bar Association.

The layout of this post is likely going to be screwed up. It's a HORRIBLY implemented aspect of google's blog editor. But in any case, here are some pictures and notes from the trip.
This picture of a bull moose was taken in Dummer New Hampshire from Route 16, just south of Cambridge. The poor moose had hundreds upon hundreds of deer flies on him at any given moment. His back side appeared to be boiling with flies. Ouch!

Unfortunately, both children were fast asleep at this point in our journey, and we did not dare wake them up to see the Moose, some 6-10 feet from the car.

This is the Flume Brook cascades in Dixville Notch State Park. It is a small waterfall adjacent to Route 26 south of the Balsams.
As you can see, Elsa is completely unaware that a picture is being taken. :)
There was a larger network of trails here, but as my main goal for the morning was "Moose Hunting" with Elsa, we explored only the first quarter mile along the brook.

"Moose Hunting along Cascade Brook/Falls." On the opposite (west) side of the road in Dixville Notch, there is a slightly larger Cascade Brook that also has some impressive but small waterfalls that cascade down through a box ravine. The website linked above to Dixville Notch State Park reports that the trail is closed due to flood damage. However, the trail was open when visited and we did not observe any flood damage.

This picture shows the lower cascades in the background. We are standing some 50 feet above the brook at this location as the box ravine drops precipitously on both sides. It is a fantastic spot both to look at and to take in the smell of the spruce-fir woodland. We had the entire location to ourselves the entire time we were there. Unfortunately, Elsa is beginning to grasp the fact that the Moose may be hiding.

On Saturday we travelled to the Colebrook New Hampshire to the Beaver Brook Falls Natural Area. It is a spectacular waterfall, particularly during spring snowmelt or high water levels. The picture here was taken during moderate flows but is still impressive.
By itself, this is one of the most spectacular, easily accessed waterfalls in the state. There is very little in terms of trails to explore but if you are in the area or just passing by, it is worth the detour. The falls can be reached only a couple of hundred feet from the parking lot.

Later this week, I'll be posting the Newington Conservation Commission's package and agenda for its meeting scheduled for July 5, 2007 at 7 PM at the Town Hall.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

June 7, 2007 Conservation Commission Agenda

The Newington Conservation Commission will meet again on Thursday June 7, 2007 at 7 PM at the Town Hall. A copy of the agenda and package can be downloaded from an FTP link I created here.

Here are a few highlights:

  • Newington resident Michelle Lozuaway has been appointed by the Board of Selectmen and joins the Commission.
  • Allied Continental Development's proposed hotel adjacent to the Spaulding Turnpike/Exit 4 behind the gas station. The Conservation Commission is reviewing the project because the applicants have requested a permit to dredge and fill wetlands from the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, Wetlands Bureau. Under RSA 482-A:11, III & IV the Commission has the statutory authority to comment on projects and, if the department declines to adopt the Commission's recommendations, it must make detailed findings to support its decision. The package contains the Commission's comments to the NHDES, as well as a Drainage Study that the applicant's consultant, Eckman Engineering, provided in response to questions concerning stormwater management.
  • There is also an excerpt of a report I prepared for the Conservation Commission a year ago when the Department of Transportation's Exit 4 project resulted in significant volumes of turbid stormwater being discharged to directly into Little Bay. This was included because stormwater runoff from the proposed hotel may ultimately end up discharging to the same culverts into Little Bay. The Commission has asked for clarification on this issue.
  • Stormwater pollution is important because, according to the NHDES, stormwater runoff is the leading cause of non-attainment with water quality standards in the state of New Hampshire. Newington's zoning ordinances, however, do not regulate the discharge of stormwater pollution. One of my main goals as chairman of the Commission is to encourage the Town to develop reasonable regulations to address this source of pollution into Great Bay and the Piscataqua River.
  • The package also contains an application to repair the retaining wall and boat launch area at Fox Point. The Town's consultant, Waterfront Engineers, LLC, has been retained by the Board of Selectmen will be presenting the proposal to the Commission. An excerpt of the application is contained in the package. Members of the public are welcome to attend and will have the opportunity to ask questions concerning the proposal.
  • Boiling Springs. The Commission is looking into whether to purchase a conservation easement to protect this prime wetland. The package contains a letter to the PDA Chairman, Art Nickless, and Executive Director Richard Green regarding this matter.

The Commission meetings are open to the public and if there is an environmental or conservation issue that you feel the Town should address, please feel free to contact me or attend our meeting.


Monday, May 21, 2007

Odds and Ends

Just a couple of quick notes as I've been thoroughly "swamped" of late.

First, some exciting news on the bird front. We had three scarlet tanangers at our house over the weekend. They perched on a tree immediately outside our window for a half hour (while the camera was in the car), and spent the better part of the weekend across the street and in the shrubs on our neighbors property. The picture above is disappointing considering that I was staring at two males in a tree six feet out my window for 5-10 minutes.

Also, if you have never seen it before, check out the NH Audubon Society's Peregrine Falcon camera here: A chick hatched a week or so ago so it has been interesting to check in from time to time and see how they are doing.

Second, the Newington Conservation Commission voted to try to negotiate a conservation easement for the Boiling Springs prime wetland. I put together a supplemental package for the Commission's meeting on May 10, 2007 that you can download here. There is a plan from the registry of deeds showing the property with the wetland, an aquifer map from a USGS Study that shows a high transmissivty aquifer is the source of the Boiling Springs wetland, as well as some pictures I took from the Arboretum Drive side of the property of turtles in the wetland.

Lastly, I'd like to ask that anyone feel free to post comments on any subject in response to this thread. I'll give off-hand and occasionally accurate responses as occasion allows.


Monday, May 7, 2007

Black and White Warbler

This years bird sightings continue to be good. Over the weekend we saw a couple of kingfishers (not rare but always fun to watch), an osprey hovering overhead, a female common yellowthroat, and a new personal first: the black and white warbler. Wikipedia has a good discussion of the black and white warbler, its habits, migrations as well as pictures.
I was lucky to get close enough to take the picture above using my clunky digital camera. Similar to a nuthatch, it was running quickly up and down the bark of trees looking for insects. While I was watching it caught a fairly large catepillar. It either does not yet have young to feed in its nest, or it was trying to catch more because it continued its search.

Friday, May 4, 2007

May 10, 2007 Newington Conservation Commission Agenda

The agenda and information package for the Newington Conservation Commission's May 10, 2007 meeting is available for download here.

Certain documents such as the plans for the two hotel proposals are not available electronically. However, copies may be viewed on request at the Town Hall.

I hope that posting this information helps keep members of the public and project applicants informed of the Commission's activities. If you have any questions or comments that you'd like to be part of the Commission's official record, please direct them to the Commission in writing or at its meeting, as this blog is run for informational purposes only and is not an official part of the record, nor endorsed by the Commission.


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Endangered Species Survey

The Commission will likely meet next on May 10, 2007. High on our priority will be completion of an endangered species survey that was included in our annual budget. The survey will be peformed by Mark West of West Environmental in Lee, New Hampshire, who some of you may know or remember from the prime wetlands study he completed for the Town.

Mark will be presenting his methods and approach for the study and will also be available to answer questions from the public. If you are interested in learning more about threatened and endangered species, or aware of any endangered species or habitats in Newington, please feel free to come to our meeting or drop us a note in our mailbox at the Town Hall.

The survey includes a review of existing records available at the State of New Hampshire's Natural Heritage Inventory, field verification and completion of a report. The survey including the report are expected to cost $6,850.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


Despite the bad weather, this has been a decent year for birdwatching for me. So far I've seen bluebirds on Old Post Road, a woodcock in the back yard, and several flycatchers that I haven't positively identified. I was even there when the Fork Tailed Flycatcher was first identified at Odiorne Point.

On Sunday I took Elsa out to the recycling center and we spotted a male American Kestrel at the fields behind the cemetary and the Old Town Hall. He was perched in the row of trees overlooking the end of the runway and Arboretum Drive. At two she's probably a little young to fully appreciate this sort of thing but it can't hurt I tell myself, provided I check for ticks afterwards.

Today she was looking at one of her bird books and pointed at a picture of the male Northern Kestrel and said "We saw this one yesterday daddy".

True, I've missed out on a lot this year, but it doesn't get much better than that.

Monday, April 16, 2007

A First Time for Everything

Welcome to my new blog!

I have created this blog as a way to get information out to the public concerning the Newington Conservation Commission and other issues that interest me. While I expect that a great deal of the blog will concern the Newington Conservation Commission, it is my hope to discuss other areas as well as time and space allow. This is my first real foray into blogging and the internet. Please be patient with me as I get accustomed to this process and look forward to improvements in the future.

About Me

By way of background, my name is Justin Richardson and I am a Newington resident and a volunteer member of the Conservation Commission, appointed by the Board of Selectmen in April 2005. While I have lived and travelled many places over the years, including Rennes, France; Montreal, Quebec; Nairobi, Kenya, I have lived most of my life in New Hampshire.

In my professional life, I am a lawyer for the firm of Upton & Hatfield, LLP where I practice primarily municipal, environmental and utility law. There is a picture of me on the firm's website under "profiles":

I moved to Newington only recently in September of 2004, with my wife Leila. Since moving to Town, we have two daughters, Elsa and Josephine that you will often see with me around Town. If you notice a dad with a toddler and pair of binoculars looking at birds or wildlife, that is probably us.

While I am a recent arrival in Town, I have been involved in a number of Newington projects in a professional capacity before moving to Town. As far back as 1996, as special counsel to the Counsel for the Public in the New Hampshire Attorney General's Office (see RSA 162-H), I was involved in the siting and permitting of the Portland Natural Gas and Maritimes & Northeast natural gas pipelines. In 1998-2000, I later served as Counsel for the Public on the construction of the Newington Energy, LLC natural gas fired power plant. While working as in house legal counsel for the property tax consulting firm George E. Sansoucy, PE, LLC, I was involved in applications for tax exemption for pollution control facilities at the Sprague Energy terminals on River Road and Avery Lane, and the Newington Energy plant.

Newington has always struck me as having some of the best of what New Hampshire has to offer: natural resouces, an independent spirit, low taxes. It is my goal as a member of the Conservation Commission to continue to promote those (and other) goals.

A New Direction for the Conservation Commission

Introductions aside, I would like to briefly describe what I see as some significant changes and opportunities that are on the horizon for the Commission in the next year. These included a number of "firsts" as well as some big projects and opportunities that may impact the Town for years to come. Here as just a few:

Changes in membership and approach. Three commission membership are up for reappointment, and the current chairman was recently asked to step down. As anyone following the news in the Portsmouth Herald knows, over the last several years, the Conservation Commission has been a very political organization, pointing fingers at other municipal and governmental bodies such as the Board of Selectmen, the New Hampshire Department of Transportation, the Pease Development Authority and others. While some of these political actions were justified, others were a significant distration from the Commission's mandate on environmental and land conservation activities. I believe with new appointments on the horizon the focus of the Commission will turn from largely political and legal issues back to Conservation.
New Laws and new projects. The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services has a new program in its infancy called the in lieu mitigation fee program. It came as an amendment to RSA 482-A:28 et seq, signed into law by Governor John Lynch in the fall of 2006. In a nutshell, the program involves developers proposing to fill between 10,000 and 44,000 (less than 1 acre) paying a fee to the NHDES to be used for conservation projects in the same watershed. NHDES will then award grants for projects such as wetlands mitigiation, conservation and other projects. It is my goal to try to pursue potential mitigation projects to promote wetlands mitigation, stormwater protection and/or other projects that will benefit Newington, Great Bay and the Piscataqua River.
NH DOT Spaulding Turnpike. The DOT proposes to fill some 30+ acres of wetlands for the expansion of the turnpike. See The Commission has asked the DOT to consider a number of mitigation projects in town ranging from outright land conservation to enhancement of disturbed wetlands and streams in Town. The next year should see the DOT making more specific proposals as the project moves forward.
Use of Information Technology. It is my hope that the Commission will begin making more information available on line, either on this site or an official resource such as the Town's web site. The time is long overdue.

I look forward to your comments, suggestions and participation in this blog as it moves forward.

-Justin Richardson

While I am a member of the Newington Conservation Commission, the views expressed here are my own, not those of the Commission. The Commission is not an adjudicatory body such as Zoning Board of Adjustment or Planning Board. While I hope to use this forum to provide information on projects that the Commission may have in mind, I will try to steer away from debating or discussion any cases or decisions to be made by the Commission in upcoming meetings. There is currently legislation concerning the use of the internet in municipal government actions that may further define what is or is not appropriate use for this site. I will continue to try to use this blog as a conservation and information tool. If you have any concerns that my use of this site is inappropriate or not in accordance with the law, please feel free to share your concerns with me. You may reach me at