Monday, December 21, 2009

GSM Realty Trust Property

This won't be my most interesting post as I am using Google's blog as a way to share video and photos with Mark West of West Environmental, the Conservation Commission's wetlands consultant concerning a development proposal which we have asked to review and provide recommendations to the Commission. However, I thought it might help illustrate some of the projects I am involved in on behalf of the Newington Conservation Commission.

This particular project involves a property owned by GSM Realty Trust located on Gosling Road between the two older power plants, the coal & wood fired Schiller Station, shown above, and the oil fired Newington Station which has the largest stack in Town and is clearly visible from the Mall.

It is located near the Piscataqua River, but is cut-off to a large extent by the Boston & Maine Railroad tracks that run along the river. Town Planner Tom Morgan reports that there may be a strip that has access. The photo above is looking south toward Schiller Station in Portsmouth.

GSM Realty Trust proposes to clean up the site for future development. There will be some significant earth moving, including the substantial removal of an earthen containment dike that was constructed when the property was used as a former oil tank farm. It has also been reported that soils were brought on to the site from the former Pease Air Force base.
One of the reasons the project concerns the Conservation Commission is its proximity to the Piscataqua River. As shown above, drainage from disturbed soils and wetlands flows or seeps through soils and into a box culvert, shown below, that discharges directly into the River.

The video and photos show that, notwithstanding the history of the property, the water quality appears to be good, although I am not aware of any tests for contaminants that may be present from the soils on the property, or from emissions from the coal and oil fired power plants that are literally a stones throw away.


A number of pipes, an oil water separator, and other vestigial remains from the use of the site as a tank farm that will need be removed to restore something resembling natural drainage. On December 14, 2009, the Planning Board also adopted storm water regulations with assistance from the Conservation Commission, the Piscataqua Region Eastuaries Partnership and the UNH Stormwater Center, that will ensure that the use of the property does not result in nitrogen and other contaminants. Invasive species such as purple loosestrife, phragmites and other species that are already present will need to be addressed.

video
This video shows that there are surface waters flowing in some of the wetland areas which under Newington's zoning ordinance means that a 100 foot setback must be observed for any structures such as detention basins, buildings etc., or a variance or special exception must be sought.

Not very exciting stuff, but important none-the-less.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Preservation of Knight's Brook

Representatives of the NH Department of Transportation came to the Newington Conservation Commission's meeting on November 12, 2009 to discuss its proposal to acquire conservation easements around Knight's Brook in Newington as mitigation for expansion of the Spaulding Turnpike.

An earlier proposal under consideration was to acquire property on Great Bay in Newington. However, cost and other issues were prohibitive. As a result, a second alternative to acquire 60 to 70 acres of land around Knight's Brook is being considered. The plan shown above (click on it for a larger version), shows that three properties or portions thereof are being considered.

If the current discussions move forward, the NHDOT will purchase easements that would protect 60 to 70 acres as open space and then give the Newington Conservation Commission the right to manage those areas for conservation purposes. The Commission has proposed use of its own funds if the conservation areas could be expanded at a reasonable cost.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Town Forest Sign is UP!

The sign denoting the Town Forest opposite the old town hall is now in place. Local contractor John Bean out of Rochester NH did a great job and it looks very well.

The Conservation Commission will be meeting on Thursday November 12 at 6:30 PM to discuss a number of projects that remain to be completed for the Town Forest. First, a map will likely need to be prepared showing the location of trails and other features on the Town Forest and other public lands. There is an extensive network of trails branching off New Road that date back to the days when the Pease Air Force Base was active. There is some indication that the area was used for snow machines and cross country skiing.

Second, the Commission will also consider what rules and regulations should apply to the Town Forest and other lands managed by the Conservation Commission. One proposal to consider, especially as an interim measure, would be to make all Town-wide rules adopted by the Selectmen related to Town property applicable to conservation lands.


The third issue to consider in my mind is what to do with the many rocks and stones that have been stockpiled on New Road. The road is completely blocked at its beginning which is definately a deterrent to entering the Town Forest. This has been discussed with the Historic District Commission, the regulatory body that reviews proposals within the Historic District, and there appears to be support for moving the rocks to make a simple stone wall along New Road with the rocks that are currently there. They are far too large to be lifted by hand. It is unfortunate that they were not placed more carefully initially because they completely block the road resulting in the need to move them even though there is no real plan or need for their use at this time.

Stop by and check out the sign the next time you are at the Langdon Library, and, feel free to take a walk down New Road. It opens up after you pass the rocks and continues at least a mile beyond Arboretum Drive.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Signs of the times...

My apologies for the lack of updates. Unfortunately, being a volunteer, I am either too busy to write any updates, or there is not anything to say because I have not been busy at all. Well, several projects that have been in the works for many months are now moving forward. Here are just a few:

1. Town Forest Sign. The Conservation Commission has obtained permission from the Selectmen and the Historic District Commission to place a Newington Town Forest at New Road opposite the Old Town Hall. Building Inspector Charlie Smart prepared specifications for the installation and the Commission is soliciting one or more bids to place the sign adjacent to New Road. Another alternative would be to have the Town road crew do the installation.

Unfortunately, in bringing the sign to the necessary meetings, one of the two signs was dropped and broke (see above). The two signs cost the Town a total of $3,400, so the loss is unfortunate. Repairs may be possible but expensive.

2. Prime Wetlands & Pease Development Authority. On September 15, 2009, the Town of Newington filed a Petition for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief in Merrimack County Superior Court. The Petition asks the Court to find that the State of New Hampshire is required under State and Federal Law and the terms of its deed to recognize the prime wetlands designation previously approved by the NH Department of Environmental Services on six prime wetlands on the lands it acquired from the United States.

I've tried to convert the petition into a JPG file so that google blogs allows me to upload it to this site. To do so I first coverted it to a TIFF, then saved it as a JPEG. Your JPEG viewer probably may have a "next page" feature that allows you to see all 7 or 8 pages.

3. Fox Point. The Conservation Commission proposed to the Selectmen that the Town convey a limited conservation easement on the Town-owned lands on Fox Point. The Selectmen voted to recommend that the Commission prepare an easement for their review which would then be subject to either public hearings before the Selectmen and Planning Board, or a vote at Town meeting in March 2010. The goal is to allow the current management by the Town Selectmen to continue but to protect the property from development.

4. Conservation Easement Acquired at Tricky Cove. The Conservation Commission obtained an easement protecting one of its prime wetlands at Tricky Cove at Little Bay. The property is relatively small and there are no plans to develop recreational access or trails, but rather to maintain the shoreland in its natural state. Part of the conservation easement covers property privately owned land. There will also be land conveyed to the Town that will be subject to the conservation easement. Much of the credit for the protection goes to the Planning Board and Tom Morgan, the Town Planner.

Our Next Meeting is Thursday October 8, 2009 and we typically meet the second thursday of the month at 6:30 PM at the Town Hall. Please come by and show your support.

-Justin Richardson, Chairman
Newington Conservation Commission

Friday, July 31, 2009

In Search of Upland Sandpipers

videoOn Wednesday July 29, Diogo Godoi, a wildlife technician with the NH Audubon Society surveyed fields on Fox Point for upland sandpipers with Dorene Stern and I on behalf of the Newington Conservation Commission.

Upland sandpipers are present on the Pease Development Authority runway, but there have been no other sightings of upland sandpipers in New Hampshire and it is on the State's list of endangered species. I understood that the PDA was interested in whether the species is present in other areas so that those living on the runway might be re-located to other suitable habitat.

Fox Point has some favorable characteristics in that I have observed bobolinks and other grassland species there. However, Fox Point, unlike the Pease runway, has a tremendous number of predators such as coyotes, foxes, raccoons and others. It is, after all, Fox Point. We learned from Mr. Godoi that of the 140 or so sites that he surveyed, no upland sandpipers were found at any locations in NH.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Town Forest & the New Road

On Wednesday Morning I stopped by the Old Town Hall to pick up the Newington Conservation Commission's Town Forest Sign. It is a 5 by 3 foot sign styled after the existing sign's at both the old and new Town Halls. Established circa 1710, it is the oldest Town Forest in the United States.

There is a road, likely established years before the PDA or even the Pease Air Force Base was established, called New Road. It runs through the Newington Town Forest from the Parsonage opposite the Old Town Hall, until it dead-ends at one of the enormous ditches constructed by the Air Force when the base was created. I believe New Road is approximately 4,000 feet to one mile in length. Its remnants can still be seen as a faint line if you look at aerial photography or satellite images of Newington, running more or less in a straight east-west direction from the parsonage to the area north of the "North ramp".

Walking its length is quite an experience. One begins at a late 17th century, or early 18th century parsonage, skips around some boulders rescued by the planning board from developed sites for future town walls, and enters an open woodland of pines and hardwoods growing on the sands typical of elevated areas in Town.

At first, it seems little more than a pleasant open woodland. However, in a short distance one crosses the former boundary of the Pease AFB, then Arboretum Drive and gradually one enters denser and denser woodlands. On the day I walked New Road, the humidity became more and more intense the deeper I entered the forest, reminiscent of J.R.R. Tolkein's description of the Old Forest: hot, oppressive, and containing a hidden power.

Crossing Arboretum Drive, however, its hidden power is revealed. It gradually transforms from an open, almost tame woodland, to a secluded, savage and impenetrable fortress of leaves, branches and clinging wet tentacles, reaching over New Road as if to bury it in a memory more ancient than the years counted by men.

There are, however, roads and trails almost too numerous to count waiting for those willing to explore. One does not need to enter the savage wilderness to see it here. It lies open to view to any brave enough to venture therein.

Walking this old "New Road" you might discover something new about yourself and your perception of the world where the protection of signs, streets, brick and pavement disappear step-by-step.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Man from outer space lands in Newington

On an otherwise quiet memorial day, a visitor from outer space landed in Newington today and was seen briefly on Old Post Road before disappearing.

Local reactions to the visitor from outerspace ranged from disbelief to excitement. "What the ..." said Leila Richardson of Newington, initially, but she later added "The kids seem to like him and with that helmet thing he probably doesn't snore."

Others seem less surprised and more interested in whether they might turn these unusual events to their advantage.

"Spray him!" shouted one on-looker holding a garden hose, later identified as Miss Elsa, also of Newington. "You're a poopie head!" another exclaimed.

The extra-terrestrial visitor disappeared moments later, promising to return in late October. "I am space man. I will capture the hose people and eat their sunflowers!"

Shouts of "Yikes!" and "Escape" were heard around the pool but nobody was sure what to make of this.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Stormwater and Great Bay

The Newington Conservation Commission meets jointly this evening with the Planning Board and the UNH Stormwater Center to discuss amending Newington's site plan regulations to address pollution from storm water runoff in the Piscataqua River and the Great Bay estuary.

Storm water runoff is likely the leading cause of pollution in Great Bay and in New Hampshire in general, which has caused declines in the health of the Great Bay estuary. The problem is significant: According to one indicator, eel grass populations have declined by 97% in recent years.

The problems caused by Storm Water pollution are well documented. Below is an excerpt from the Conservation Commission report which will be published in the 2008 Town Report:

Stormwater Pollution.
Stormwater runoff from urbanized (i.e. paved) areas is the leading source of non-point pollution in New Hampshire.[1] Stormwater causes pollutants and particulate matter containing heavy metals, hydrocarbons (oil and grease) and organic waste to flow directly to surface waters with little or no treatment. It also increases temperature, nutrient, turbidity and bacteria levels and reduces dissolved oxygen. Studies cited by the NH Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) indicated that surface water quality declines sharply when as little as 10% of a watershed is covered by impervious surfaces.[2] In sections of Newington’s commercial and industrial zones, such as in the Paul’s Brook Watershed, imperviousness already exceeds 40%.

In August of 2008, the NHDES determined that water quality in the Great Bay estuary, and in particular the Piscataqua River and Little Bay, is impaired due to the loss of eelgrass habitat due to high nitrogen and turbidity levels.[3] In addition, 2.6 square miles of tidal estuary in New Hampshire does not meet Class B standards due to stormwater pollution.[4]
Amendments to site plan regulations effect only commercial and industrial development, and should not impact residential development in Newington.

The Planning Board is the agency that will adopt the final regulations and has the final authority to approve any regulations. However, the Planning Board has asked the Conservation Commission to take the lead in developing the proposed regulations. Any person wishing to comment on storm water issues should contact the Newington Conservation Commission or come to our meetings, normally held the second thursday each month.

NOTES:

[1] See e.g., Nonpoint Source Management Plan, Table 2.3, Page 2.2.4 (October 1999).
[2] See e.g., Best Management Practices to Control Nonpoint Source Pollution: A Guide for Citizens
and Town Officials, Page 9 (January 2004); NH Estuaries Project State of the Estuaries 2006; Deacon et al., Effects of Urbanization on Stream Quality at Selected Sites in the Seacoast Region in New Hampshire, 2001–03.
[3] Methodology and Assessment Results related to Eelgrass and Nitrogen in the Great Bay Estuary
for Compliance with Water Quality Standards for the New Hampshire 2008 Section 303(d) List, NHDES WD Doc R-WD-08-18 (August 2008).
[4] 2004 Section 305(b) and 303(d)Surface Water Quality Report, Table 3-5, Page 3-10 (March 31, 2004).

Monday, January 26, 2009

Vacancy!

The Newington Conservation Commission has a vacancy due to the departure [sob] of Erin Baird, an alternate member, and Michelle Lozuaway. We are seeking one permanent member to replace Michelle and as many alternates as may be interested.

Conservation members must be Newington Residents and willing to attend our monthly meetings the second Thursday of each month. It is hoped that interested persons will also help out with the Commission's other activities. The Commission is responsible for protection of Newington's natural resources under RSA 36-A, and also manages a conservation fund for the acquisition of land and easements in the Town for conservation purposes. In addition, the Commission reviews and comments on applications to dredge and fill in or adjacent to wetlands and waters in Town.

In 2009 we expect to complete a number of conservation projects including: (a) develop a management plan for the Newington Town Forest; (b) develop site plan regulation to address storm water pollution in the Great Bay Estuary; (c) complete landscaping improvements on publicly owned lands in Town; and (d) finalize a survey of threatened and endangered species habitats.

If these or other conservation projects interest you, please send me an email expressing your interest in joining the Commission, and feel free to attend one of our monthly meetings normally at 6:30 PM the second thursday each month.

-Justin Richardson, Chair
Newington Conservation Commission