OPINION: Is Wild Goose a Dead Duck?
Deadwater is the nautical term for a phenomenon which can make a ship hard to maneuver or even slow it down almost to a standstill. Given the latest events in the long-standing proposed Wild Goose access site on Lake Sunapee, that word seems appropriate.
On Tuesday, the New Hampshire House voted 220-114 to defeat a bill that would have created a $2 million bond earmarked for the proposed Wild Goose public boat launch in Newbury
This follows the release of findings last week from the Lake Sunapee Public Boat Access Development Commission.
The “Wild Goose location should be removed from consideration due to inadequately meeting the needs of a public deep water boat launch," the commission stated
The 15 member commission was established by Gov. Chris Sununu on Sept. 19, 2017.
Sununu has spoken against the location in the past.
“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," he said in July. "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.”
A member of the commission, Sen. Ruth Ward, R-Stoddard, echoed his thoughts on Friday.
"After 27 years of debating the feasibility of developing the Wild Goose state property into a deep water launch for public boats, I hope we can finally put this idea to rest," Ward said.
At issue is the site which was acquired by the Land and Conservation Investment Program at auction in 1990. One hundred and thirty acres were transferred to enlarge the existing Sunapee State Park and the remaining 3.3 acres was earmarked to become the state’s only, free to the public, boat launch on Lake Sunapee.
While those opposed to the proposed Wild Goose site are pleased with the commission’s findings, they maintain that they are committed to finding a suitable location for boating access to Lake Sunapee. However, many in the outdoor community are not convinced. They feel that the commission was unfairly stacked, as many members had interests and/or houses on Lake Sunapee, and that it lacked legal standing.
Just as they say, Sununu had no standing to cause the Wetlands Extension to not be granted last summer. One unnamed source maintains that the only recourse now is to sue the state to have the boating access built at Wild Goose. Without it, they’re convinced that there will be no meaningful boat access to Lake Sunapee during their lifetime.
During his almost 10-year tenure as Executive Director of the Fish and Game Department, Glenn Normandeau has pointed to the fact that in spite of continued opposition to the Wild Goose project, all the required permits had been secured and they had been successful in two New Hampshire State Supreme Court decisions.
On the Fish and Game Department website it states that, “New Hampshire's waters are owned by the public. The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department's legal authority and responsibility (RSA 233) is to provide access for all people to all “great ponds” (lakes and ponds 10 acres or larger in area).
As the state’s fifth largest lake with 4,125 acres, that certainly meets the threshold.
In February 2017, Sununu put Fish and Game’s $2.1 million bond to complete the project into his proposed two-year capital budget. It then moved through the House Public Works and Highways Committee, the full New Hamsphire House and then to the state Senate. There’s where the Goose became grounded.
Is the proposed Wild Goose traffic plan faulty? Can a compromise proposal be constructed? Is the opposition a collective effort by those who want to keep boat traffic off of Lake Sunapee? Will it become a campaign issue during the current election season?
There’s certainly no shortage of questions. But, the one clear answer at this point, other than the Wild Goose discussion will be entering its 27 year with no tangible results for residents or non-residents is that there is no clear answer. And that perhaps is the saddest commentary.
Peter St. James is the host of the "NH Wake Up Show," which airs from 6-10 a.m. Monday-Friday on 107.7 WTPL The Pulse and 107.3 WEMJ. He is an avid hunter and fisherman and licensed fishing guide.