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House Bill 543 seeks to establish a 50-foot protective buffer adjacent to all wetlands and a 100-foot buffer adjacent to “high value wetlands.” “High value wetlands” is a proposed new category of wetland that is based on:
- Presence of natural heritage elements (rare, threatened, endangered species, or a species of interest);
- Within a tier 3 stream (drains 640 acres) floodplain;
- Forested wetland greater than five acres where more than 50 percent of the soil is very poorly drained; and
- Any wetland in a floodplain subject to flooded soils.
In both cases (50-foot and 100-foot buffers), the buffer is to be maintained in a “…natural condition, without any disturbance to or removal of vegetation…” In addition to removing large blocks of land from productive forest management (e.g., every 435.6 feet of buffer to a “high value wetland” removes one acre of land), the restrictions in this bill will make timber sale layout (especially if the property contains wetlands or a stream) extremely difficult and expensive.
Moreover, the New Hampshire Department or Environmental Services (NHDES) just concluded the public comment period on a five-year wetland rule rewrite. This bill would turn this rulemaking effort on its head, as it will dramatically expand NHDES’s wetland regulatory jurisdiction into upland areas.
At a public hearing in February on HB 543, some of the most compelling testimony came from the State Forester, who is concerned that this bill expands the NHDES’s jurisdictional reach into upland areas, which raises a host of questions (e.g., landowners having to hire wetland scientists to map wetlands on their property before conducting a timber harvest, impacts on existing basal area laws, and what additional costs will the state incur managing state-owned property).
We continue to ask NHTOA members to submit comments to the committee. Below is a brief description of the bill and instructions for sending emails to the committee. Please note that because some NHTOA members have had trouble with the committee-wide email address, you should include the chairwoman’s, vice-chairman’s, and clerk’s email address.
Here is the committee contact information and the talking points:
Address your email to:
Representative Suzanne Smith, Chairwoman
N.H. House of Representatives Resources, Recreation, and Development Committee
New Hampshire Legislative Office Building, Room 305
Concord, NH 03301
Send your email to:
In your email:
- Introduce yourself and company:
- Town where you own timberland in (include how many acres of land you own);
- Town your timber-related business is located in, and towns where you work;
- # employees (gross payroll figure would be good).
- Thank Chairwoman Smith and the members of the committee for the opportunity to comment on HB 543.
- Clearly state you oppose House Bill 543. 3.
Talking points for why you oppose HB 543:
- It will remove timberland from forest management (merchantable timber Red Maple, Spruce, and Eastern White Pine all can grow in what is technically defined wetland);
- HB 543 will increase the complexity of timber sale layout and planning (e.g., How can I cross wetland if I can’t “disturb the vegetation”?);
- The bill will impact sawmill saw log availability as timberland is removed from production and timber sales become more costly to operate;
- HB 543 fails to recognize the thousands of hours of public comment and staff time put into the NHDES’ five-year wetland rulemaking process; and
- HB 543 fails to recognize that NHDES already regulates upland areas adjacent to wetlands through the department’s Alteration of Terrain permitting process (the intent to cut form serves as the permit application for forest management projects).
On Friday, Feb. 8, 2019, State Sen. Jeb Bradley toured DiPrizio Pine Sales in Middleton, N.H., on a fact-finding visit to gather details regarding net metering and how House Bill 365 will help operations like DiPrizio gain energy independence as well as provide incentives for more renewable energy investment in solar, small-scale hydro, and biomass energy in New Hampshire.
Sen. Bradley listens to Marcella Perry, former NHTOA board member, talk about the benefits House Bill 365 will bring to DiPrizio Pine Sales while NHTOA executive director Jasen Stock looks on.
When all the solar panels are installed on these stands and this solar array at DiPrizio is operating next May, it will provide more than enough power to run DiPrizio's sawmill and retail business.
DiPrizio also has a biomass energy burner to supply heat. It can also produce electricity.
HB 365 basically mirrors last year’s net metering bill (SB 446), which the NHTOA supported, the Governor vetoed, and a veto override campaign failed to override the veto in the N.H. House by just 12 votes. HB 365 will raise the net meter cap (i.e., the ability to self-generate electricity) from the current limit of 1 megawatt to 5 megawatts. More NHTOA wood processing members (i.e., sawmills) are looking to produce their own electricity through biomass boilers, solar arrays, or in some cases small hydro power. Most of these businesses need more than 1 megawatt of electricity, so the current cap is restricting their ability to self-generate. HB 365 will fix this problem. Last week the House Science, Technology and Energy committee held a marathon hearing on this bill, and although the testimony overwhelmingly supported HB 365, the opposition was strident, claiming this bill is a ratepayer subsidy to those businesses by shifting power costs. The fiscal note attached to last year’s net metering bill, completed by the NH Public Utilities Commission, stated net metering is cost neutral and in fact would reduce costs, as the local power being generated from these private sources reduces the amount of power needing to be transmitted into the state.
Stating that the six independent biomass energy plants in New Hampshire are at risk for continued operation as a result of foot-dragging by Eversource, a letter sent by several state senators and representatives urges the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to implement Senate Bill 365. The bill was passed last year by an overwhelming bipartisan majority, and requires Eversource to purchase the energy output of the six biomass plants. A gubernatorial veto of SB 365 was overridden last fall by a two-thirds vote of both the House and Senate.
The letter states that "the law is clear -- Eversource is to select the proposals submitted to it by the biomass plants that conform to the law and submit them to the commission. This has not occurred and the continued operation of these facilities is at risk and the General Court's important public interest determinations remain unfulfilled."
The letter, which is addressed to Martin Honigberg, chairman of the PUC, and the members of the commission, adds: "The continued operation of these facilities depends on the expeditious implementation of SB 365. We urge you to take the action needed to implement that law and fulfill the General Court's public interest determination."
To read the full letter, click here.
New Hampshire's Current Use Board (CUB), an agency of the N.H. Dept. of Revenue Administration, has proposed a new schedule of Current Use fees as well as new assessment rules. The new fees comprise relatively modest increases, ranging from a 0.4 percent increase for White Pine acreage to 6.3 percent for Hardwood acreage.
The proposed changes to the assessment rules can be downloaded here.
Public hearings on the changes are scheduled as follows:
- Monday, December 10, 2018: Lancaster Town Hall Auditorium. 6:00 p.m.
- Wednesday, December 12, 2018: Keene Parks and Recreation, 2nd Floor - Room 21. 6:00 p.m.
- Friday, December 14, 2018: DRA - Training Room, Concord, N.H. 9:30 a.m.