Sullivan County Sportsmen Takes Legal Action to Address Renewal of Wetlands Permit for Wild Goose Boat Ramp
Project Dates Back 20 Years
The Sullivan County Sportsmen, Inc., has taken legal action against the NH Dept. of Environmental Services in an attempt to force it to address the renewal of the wetlands permit for the Wild Goose project that the governor unilaterally pulled from the Executive Council's agenda for August, announced the group. The permit expired August 28th; Thursday night the Sullivan County Sportsmen voted to pay a lawyer to file a Writ of Mandamus in an attempt to force the renewal of the wetlands permit. It was filed on Friday in Sullivan County Superior Court.
“Since Gov. Chris Sununu pulled the renewal of the permit from the Executive Council’s agenda for August, two lawyers have informed the SCS that they feel the statutes do not require executive action for the renewal of permits,” a spokesperson for the group told the e-Ticker News on Saturday. “Fish and Game inquired of the state Attorney General's office if this was true. The Attorney General's office agreed but stated that since it is customary that permit renewals be submitted to the Governor and Executive Council for renewal, they are not willing to pursue this issue. Since it is the custom, it is considered as the rule.
“The law clearly states that all fresh water bodies larger than 10 acres are property of the state and the people should have access to these waters,” continued the Sullivan County Sportsmen. “There currently is no boat launch for Lake Sunapee that meets the definition of a public launch giving the public access to the lake. Since the wetlands permit is necessary to progress with the development of the Wild Goose Landing at Lake Sunapee, it is legally necessary that the renewal be approved.”
NHDES asked in a letter to the governor and Council dated July 13 that the request by the NH Department of Fish and Game for a five-year permit for the project be approved.
On July 28, Sununu announced that “Today, I pulled from the Governor and Executive Council meeting agenda another permit extension for the Wild Goose Site on Lake Sunapee in Newbury. We have heard the concerns of the residents of Newbury, Sunapee, and the surrounding towns. Enough is enough. This project has been debated for the last 20 years and it is time to put an end to this flawed plan. Public access to our state’s waterways is important and essential, and we will work with the residents of the area to find a better solution to ensure greater public access.”
In a letter dated August 17, the NH Fish and Game Commission responded to Sununu on the Sunapee Access, writing, “Dear Governor Sununu & the Honorable Council,
“At the August 9, 2017, Commission Meeting, The Fish and Game Commission voted unanimously to write to you to express our serious disagreement with your decision to pull the wetlands permit extension for the construction of the Wild Goose public access site on Lake Sunapee.
“This boat access proposal has been in the works for over 20 years, however, not due to the lack of effort by the Fish and Game Department. We feel the delay is due to a few wealthy individuals who have ownership on the shores of Sunapee and want to keep our 6th largest lake as their own private domain.
“Lake Sunapee’s waters are ‘Waters of the State,’ and by statute since 1906 must allow access to the public. Countless hours and over $400,000 of the public’s money has been spent on studies, engineering and permitting to date. To throw this away because of the selfish feelings of a few individuals should be a crime, as New Hampshire Statute states, ‘No individual or corporation shall prohibit public access to public waters.’
“Exhaustive studies have been conducted, public hearings have been held and attended by hundreds of residents, and signed petitions have been submitted by thousands, all in support of the Wild Goose site. It not only is the best site, it is the ONLY site that will meet the criteria as supported by the environmental assessment.
“We, the Commission and our constituency, not only strongly urge you to re-consider your decision to pull the extension of our wetlands permit, we also ask for your support in building this important access site, which will be used by thousands of residents and tourists alike to enjoy one of the great gems of our State.”
It was signed, “Theodore Tichy, Chairman, NH Fish & Game Commission”.
According to a Valley News article on July 29, the Lake Sunapee Protective Association said it was “pleased” with the governor’s announcement, adding that the group was not “opposed to increasing boat access on the lake but fought this plan by New Hampshire Fish and Game.” According to the article, the LSPA believes “a better solution would be to improve parking and access at the state beach, which is about 1.5 miles north of the state-owned Wild Goose property.”
Sullivan County Sportsmen, which has supported the Wild Goose project since the beginning, agrees with the NH Fish and Game’s contention that the project has been stymied by “wealthier” individuals who own property around the lake, saying in a statement to the e-Ticker News that if the legal action works, “All the regular people win, and if it doesn't work, the much smaller group of big money people wins and it sets a horrible precedent for the moneyed to prevent the regular people of this state from being able to exercise their rights, in this case access to the lake.” It disagrees with the LSPA that the state beach would be a better site, expressing concerns that it could “cause accidents to occur” in that area. Concern was also expressed, said the attorney for the group, that locating the boat access there would interfere with people who go there to “enjoy the beach.”
According to information provided by the Sullivan County Sportsman group, a Mandamus ("We command") is a judicial remedy in the form of an order from a superior court, to any government subordinate court, corporation, or public authority, to do (or forbear from doing) some specific act which that body is obliged under law to do (or refrain from doing), and which is in the nature of public duty, and in certain cases one of a statutory duty. It cannot be issued to compel an authority to do something against statutory provision.