Judging from the turnout (at least 61 people, maybe more) and the feedback (more than 31 people spoke, some of them more than once) I’d say last night’s standing-room-only meeting was a great success. The meeting, which came about as a result of discussions earlier in the month between Clary Lake Association (CLA) representatives and State Representative Deb Sanderson, was well-moderated by CLA President Malcolm Burson. In an outstanding show of solidarity, both State Representative Deb Sanderson (a Republican) and State Senator Christopher Johnson (a Democrat) ran the meeting together in a refreshing show of non-partisan cooperation. While the Clary Lake water level crisis is not a partisan issue, it was still refreshing and encouraging to see our two elected representatives completely aligned and working together towards a common goal. They will be working together to draft a letter to, and bring this matter to the attention of, the Department of Environmental Protection.
One of the main goals of the meeting had been to arrange for Clary Lake shore owners and other community members share their grievances with officials from both towns in the hopes of spurring them to take a more active role in support of the State’s defense of the water level order. To that end, Representative Sanderson had extended an invitation to both Jefferson and Whitefield officials to attend the meeting. While all 5 of Whitefield’s Select Board members were at the meeting, to everyone’s surprise, none of Jefferson’s 3 Select Board members decided to attend. This was an insult to the Jefferson residents that represented over 1/2 of the people that showed up and spoke at the meeting.
Also to the surprise of many, both Paul Kelley of Pleasant Pond Mill LLC and his partner Richard Smith of Aquafortis Associates LLC showed up at the meeting. Mr. Kelley spoke numerous times but offered nothing new to the conversation, merely repeating statements that everyone has already heard before. However there was one promising outcome of their being at the meeting: Representative Sanderson and Senator Johnson have agreed to meet with Kelley and Smith later next month to discuss possible solutions to the lake level crisis.
Joann Tribby of Jefferson was the first person to speak. Complaining of lost income and water supply issues, Joann described the difficulties they have had trying to rent their camp this summer. She said that they have had to return money several times after renters showed up only to discover they would not be able to launch their boat or go swimming. This was followed by several people talking about the impact of low water levels on their property values and the difficulty they’re having of selling their property. Clary Lake shore owner and realtor Jack Holland who has several properties listed around the lake said that prospective buyers quickly lose interest in property on the lake as soon as they find out what is going on.
Thomas Gillette spoke eloquently about how the fishing on Clary Lake used to be, including some history about how his brother in law Ed Grant worked with the state to stock the lake first with small mouth bass and then later with large mouth bass. He provided Representative Sanderson with a photograph (at left) of a 6 pound large mouth bass he caught about 5 years ago in the meadow area of the lake, an area now currently completely drained. Sadly, with the shallow littoral zone of the lake drained, much of the important game fish spawning habitat has been lost.
Whitefield Fire Chief Scott Higgins spoke about the lack of suitable water supplies for fire fighting in both and Whitefield and Jefferson, stating that in the past they have obtained water from both the Clary Lake dam and at the head of the lake by Route 126/215. Both those sites are unusable at this time and furthermore, if they were called to fight a fire at any home around the lake in either town, the current water levels pretty much preclude them using lake water to fight the fire. Whitefield Select Board member Dennis Merrill spoke about the town has about the lowest ISO rating you can get and how it is costing the town tax payers considerable money in increased fire insurance premiums. Improving access to usable water supplies could help reduce the town’s ISO fire insurance rating which would in aggregate save taxpayers a lot of money on their home insurance. Some of you will remember then Lincoln County Commissioner Sheridan Bond testifying about ISO ratings and the effect of low lake levels on fire insurance rates during the August 2012 Public Hearing. Still a problem, still a concern.
At the conclusion of the meeting, Representative Sanderson and Senator Johnson said they were going to continue their fact-finding activities for a while before jointly preparing a letter to be sent to DEP, encouraging the Department to take action to mitigate this situation. I’ll post additional information on this website as it becomes available.
Thank all of you who showed up, whether you chose to speak or not.