BOWLING FOR DOLLARS
The Canaan Women’s Bowling League hosted a team of firefighters and other first responders from Canaan and Beecher Falls on Sunday for an afternoon tournament at Wayne’s Lanes that raised $1,025 for the family of Chris Ricker. The guys were decked out in bright yellow shirts provided by Squeegee Printers, whose employee (and fireman) Scott DeGray shows off the logo on the back as pointed out by teammate Marc Inkel. Everyone had a fine time and the ladies took care of business, beating the fellas by 336 total pins. (Rob Maxwell photo)
Petition Proposes Relocation of Balsams’ Water Withdrawal Site on Androscoggin
By Jake Mardin
A petition titled “Protect Indian Bay” is currently being circulated in Errol and other locations, opposing withdrawal of water in the Indian Bay area of the Androscoggin River for the purposes of snowmaking at The Balsams ski area.
“We, the undersigned, oppose any private infringement on the six-acre pool between the Errol Dam and the rapids,” states the petition. “Locally known as Indian Bay, this pristine and legendary section of highly oxygenated water is precisely where the Androscoggin’s salmon and trout spawning cycle lasts from October to March. Unfortunately, these are the same months and from the same place in the river where The Balsams is planning to pump 22,000,000 gallons of water per day to make snow at its new ski area. There are better options available for an extraction location.”
The petition was written by Clark Corson, who said he spent 41 years as a lobbyist in New Hampshire before retiring in 2012 and moving to Plymouth, Mass. He has had a camp on Magalloway road since 1999 and his father, Bernard, was the former Chief of the Fisheries Division of N.H. Fish and Game. Mr. Corson said he spends about 60 hours a year fishing at Indian Bay in the fall, and became aware in October of The Balsams’ plan to withdraw water from the river for the purposes of snowmaking and fire suppression.
During the summer, the N.H. Department of Environmental Services awarded a water permit to Dixville Capital, LLC that allows the withdrawal of water from the Andro-scoggin River and transport via pipeline to the snowmaking system.
Mr. Corson said the two major issues are a private corporation taking from a public resource, and the point of extraction. He said Indian Bay is where salmon and trout lay eggs on the river bottom and where the eggs develop into alevins, and that the time when water would be withdrawn is also when the fish reproductive cycle occurs.
Mr. Corson said he is not opposed to The Balsams redevelopment, and he is not representing anyone with regards to the petition, although he is the manager of Indian Bay Conservancy, LLC. He also said he does not object to water withdrawal, but would prefer a location north or south of Indian Bay—either upstream from Errol Dam or at Bragg’s Bay, which is 150 yards downstream of the rapids below the Route 26 bridge.
“The most direct and least expensive option is the latter,” he said. “That is, to locate the extraction pipes and pump house at the Bragg’s Bay site. With either choice, the fishery will be preserved and The Balsams will get its snowmaking water supply.”
Balsams spokesman Scott Tranche-montagne said the Androscoggin River is a public resource used by many private companies, and is the site of over 20 dams. “The City of Berlin uses water for their wastewater treatment facility,” he said. “The Berlin Tissue Company uses water for processing.” He added that many farms pull water from the river for irrigation, and that over 90 percent of the water that The Balsams pumps will come back to the river about 3,400 feet downstream, at the Clear Stream Convergence.
Mr. Tranchemontage said The Balsams application, including the location of withdrawal, was “thoroughly reviewed by state environmental experts and scientists at the Department of Environmental Services,” who reviewed the impacts on aquatic life. He also noted that there was a public comment period before the permit to withdraw water was approved.
“Fish eggs are anchored to the riverbed,” he said. “Our river intake is four feet above the river bottom. The screens we have proposed have been installed at other locations within the state, and work well without impacting fisheries. The intake screens have a very large inlet area lowering the inlet velocity to very low levels, and the speed of the water across the screen will be slower than the actual speed of the water in the river.”
Mr. Tranchemontagne said no “vacuum effect” will be caused. N.H. Fish and Game will approve any inlet structure and, along with the Department of Safety Marine Division, the position of the inlet. The minimum stream flows allowed are 523 cubic feet per second (cfs). Mr. Tranchemontage said the daily mean flow will exceed 1,080 cfs 93 percent of the time, and the maximum withdrawal of water for The Balsams would be 34 cfs.
The Balsams is moving forward with the approved location, he said. “Above the dam, the temperature is higher. In Bragg’s Bay there is a lot of siltation and driftwood accumulated. The water is also relatively shallow due to the amount of eroded soil that fills that area. There would be a much greater impact to wetlands with an installation in Bragg’s Bay.”
He reiterated that the DES held a “lengthy comment period,” and moving the location “would cause project delays that could jeopardize our ability to start this summer, which could potentially cost a full construction season.” He said that the chosen location has less impact “ecologically and environmentally.”
(Issue of April 27, 2016)
A WELCOME SIGN OF SPRING
The ospreys have returned to their nest on the Bengtson property along the Connecticut River in Columbia, as seen by passersby on Route 3 over the past couple of weeks. The nest was successfully relocated from atop a utility pole to a safer, specially built structure in 2012, in a joint effort by then-Public Service of New Hampshire, Central Vermont Public Service, FairPoint and local wildlife biologists. (Courtesy photo)
Winter’s Timber Harvest Is Down Due to Warm Weather, Changing Market
By Rob Maxwell
A combination of unfavorably warm and rainy weather and an unstable wood products market has contributed to what some local timberland jobbers and managers say is a significant reduction in the North Country’s volume of harvest during the 2015-16 winter season.
Recent interviews with forester John Steward of LandVest, Inc., Fred Cunning-ham of Cunningham Logging and owner-operator Jeff Rainville indicate that the volume of wood harvested locally was down 15 to 35 percent compared to recent years. All three pointed to a lack of heavy snow cover, long periods of relative warm temperatures, rain and uncertainties in the market for both hardwood and softwood as contributing factors in the reduced harvest.
Mr. Steward commented last week that the entire winter season resembled, “mud season in the winter,” and he noted that rain, warm weather and a lack of snow made winter logging operations in the Connecticut Headwaters Tract in Pittsburg, Clarksville and Stewartstown difficult. “We cut quite a lot in the fall, but the winter volume was down about 15 percent,” he said, adding that timber market instability this year compounded an already climate-affected situation. LandVest forester and marketer Joe Daley said that even if the winter weather had been perfect for harvesting, “We would have had trouble selling everything we might have been able to cut.”
Mr. Steward said the unusually warm weather made it hard to conduct normal operations this year as frozen ground and heavy snow cover are required for timber harvest machinery to operate without doing environmental damage. “The current demand for all kinds of wood is very unsteady,” he observed, “and this year’s reduced harvest added to the roller-coaster ups and downs of what we’re trying to do to best serve our clients.”
Fred Cunningham is part of family-owned Cunningham Logging based in Canaan. Including himself and two other family members, the company maintains a payroll of ten employees involved in timber cutting, de-limbing, moving and trucking. The family also recently purchased and now operates an automotive service station in Canaan.
The timber harvesting portion of the business includes contractual work for LandVest, and Mr. Cunningham says the firm’s equipment includes two grapple skidders, a harvester-forwarder, a feller-buncher, a de-limber and a crane, with another crane sub-contracted. The Cunninghams also own and operate a single log truck and sub-contract up to five other timber-hauling rigs.
Mr. Cunningham said last Saturday that his best estimate of this year’s winter harvest put the total volume down, “30 to 35 percent from last year, and all our guys have commented that they can’t remember having so many days off.” He added that weather conditions and market demand allowed his company to harvest until mid-April during the 2014-15 winter season but, “This year we were done in the first week of March.”
Longtime Cunningham employee Rodney Day noted that changes in winter weather over the past two and a half decades have reduced the time spent annually in actual forest harvesting. “Twenty-five years ago, loggers were working 10 months a year, but now we work maybe seven to eight months.”
Mr. Cunningham corroborated Joe Daley’s outlook on this year’s deflated market demand. “Even if we’d had a good winter weather-wise,” he said, “the market is so bad that we would have fulfilled local mill demand by sometime in February.”
He said this situation has had a ripple effect on the local wood products economy that includes woods operators, sub-contractors, fuel and maintenance providers and truckers, and that flexibility of work force and equipment deployment has been essential over previous months. “It helps that we can run two shifts, day and night,” Mr. Cunningham said, “but this year the schedule has been unsteady, and our people have been called on to work weekends depending on the weather forecast.”
Fred said the family’s decision to purchase the service station in Canaan was predicated on a need for diversification. “Time in the woods is going down, so having a steady source of income became a must.”
Jeff Rainville operates a one-man logging business almost entirely on privately owned lots across the North Country, and said this winter’s rainy and warm conditions forced him to be on call, “to the weather, that is,” seven days a week. “I really watched the weather reports all winter long, because I need sub-freezing temperatures to build snow and ice bridges across wet spots, brook crossings and swampy ground.”
Jeff said owners of relatively small, privately owned woodlots nowadays demand a minimal amount of terrain damage during harvesting. “I spent around 75 hours this winter just walking and flagging,” he said. “Water runs downhill and there wasn’t much frozen water this year. I lost an entire week of work in January and another week in February. The loss of one day’s work can be made up over a weekend, but the loss of a week cannot be made up.”
Jeff related that his volume of wood cut over the winter was “down around 25 percent, and wintertime is usually my big time of the year.” Although he focuses his efforts mostly on sawlog quality hardwood and softwood, he also deals in firewood and works during off-season months at the Weir Tree Farm. “The days of a single operator being able to make a living with a chainsaw and a cable skidder year-round are long gone,” Jeff said, “so I have had to diversify a bit.”
Jeff keeps a close eye on the overall condition of the North Country timber industry and he agreed that market demands--especially for pulpwood used in mills in Maine--are currently volatile at best. “If the mill in Madison, Maine, closes its doors this month, as has been reported in the news, the market will be flooded with low-quality wood and that will drive prices down, whatever the weather is,” he said. “It’s a messy situation for sure, and everyone is looking forward to a dry summer season.”
(Issue of April 27, 2016)
A NORTH COUNTRY ICON
Bernice Fish was proud to hold the Boston Post Cane as Pittsburg’s eldest citizen, and she’s seen here with her family during the presentation in August of 2010. (Claire Lynch photo)
‘Pittsburg Royalty’ Bernice Fish Passes at the Age of 100
After living nearly her entire life in the town where she was born, attending a one-room schoolhouse and raising her family, Bernice Fish of Pittsburg died last Tuesday at 100 years of age. A true North Country woman who was never idle and greeted life with good humor, she exemplified the independent spirit of the Indian Stream Republic. Bernice was known well outside her hometown as the character in the Pittsburg Old Home Day parade, the matriarch of a great family and the town’s honored holder of the Boston Post Cane. Her life will be celebrated with a memorial service at 11 a.m. this Saturday at the Farnham Church in Pittsburg, may be found on-line at wwww.jenkinsnewman.com.
(Issue of April 27, 2016)