A New Hampshire lake during summer

New Hampshire 2021 Legislative Session

NH LAKES works with New Hampshire legislators, state agency staff, and partners, to submit bills that will help ensure our lakes are clean and healthy, now and in the future! While NH LAKES takes strong positions of support or opposition on some bills, we also track a large number of bills as they move through the legislative process, so we can respond if they become important to our cause. Below, you’ll learn about bills we support directly and those we choose to track.

For more information, email or call Michelle Davis, NH LAKES Advocacy Program Coordinator, at mdavis@nhlakes.org or (603) 226-0299.

Core Issues to Lake Health:

House Bill 426 relative to shoreland septic systems was strongly supported by NH LAKES. The proposed bill was an opportunity to improve water quality by identifying underperforming and uninspected septic systems by preventing harmful nutrients, like phosphorus, from leaching into New Hampshire’s lakes. The proposed bill would have required assessment at the time of sale for certain septic systems on properties within the developed waterfront. The bill was retained by the House Resources, Recreation and Development Committee which means it is being held on to for more work or possible reconsideration.

House Bill 229 defining “wake boat” was a high priority for NH LAKES and would have defined wake boats in statute. When used in certain ways, wake (ballast) boats pose a threat to the health of New Hampshire’s lakes in the form of shoreline erosion, property damage, disturbance on the lake bottom, and the spread of aquatic invasive species. The bill was voted ‘Inexpedient to Legislate’ in the House Resources, Recreation and Development Committee, but was not acted upon by the full House of Representatives. The bill is therefore effectively dead, but could be reintroduced next session.

House Bill 398 making an appropriation to New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services for the purpose of funding public water system projects. The projects that would be funded by this bill were not yet established, but updating and maintaining wastewater treatment plants is important to prevent harmful nutrients from entering New Hampshire’s surface waters. Nutrients from improperly functioning wastewater treatment systems contribute to toxic cyanobacteria blooms. The bill was retained by the House Finance Committee which means it is being held on to for more work or possible reconsideration.

Related to Lakes:

House Bill 115 relative to wake surfing added the activity of ‘wake surfing’ to existing safety legislation and comes out of consensus from the Wake Boat Study Commission. The bill requires participants to wear a life jacket, have a spotter, and a few other safety provisions. Wake surfing is growing in popularity in New Hampshire and, as a relatively new activity, it is important to add it to safety regulations. The bill was passed and signed into law by the Governor. It becomes effective September 21, 2021.

House Bill 158 relative to the definition of a prime wetland would have increased the area of a wetland eligible for a prime wetland designation. The goal of this legislation was to include the “fingers and toes” of a wetland that meet certain exceptional function criteria. Wetlands help protect and improve water quality, provide wildlife habitat, and reduce the impacts of floods. The bill was voted ‘Inexpedient to Legislate’ by the House Resources, Recreation and Development Committee.

House Bill 99 relative to seasonal platforms on public waters requires that anyone seeking to anchor a floating dock, seasonal platform, inflatable platform, or float on public waters observe requirements specified by the New Hampshire Department of Safety. The bill passed and requires the New Hampshire Department of Safety to undergo a formal rulemaking process. Rulemaking, which is not expected to begin until at least the fall, will seek public comments to determine rules concerning depth, distance from shore, size, and placement for seasonal platforms. NH LAKES will update supporters on this process as information is available.

House Bill 177 prohibiting the siting of a landfill near a state park was defeated after an inspiring and hard-fought battle. The bill would have prevented new landfills from being sited within two miles of any state park in New Hampshire. The bill was brought about specifically in response to a proposed landfill near Forest Lake and Forest Lake State Park in the towns of Bethlehem and Dalton, but would have protected parks throughout the state. A landfill could have significant detrimental water quality impacts for nearby waterbodies, including contaminating surface water and groundwater.

Related to the Conservation Community:

House Bill 82 relative to amending a conservation easement could allow landowners and the state legislature to negotiate potentially harmful amendments to conservation easements. NH LAKES opposed this bill because of the possibility to gut environmental protections on conserved land around lakes in New Hampshire. Although land conservation is not a core activity of NH LAKES, undisturbed natural lands help soak up and filter runoff water, keep pollutants out of lakes, provide beneficial wildlife habitat, and are generally good for lake health. Conservation easements provide landowners significant tax breaks in exchange for stewarding and conserving their land in perpetuity. House Bill 82 was retained in the House Judiciary Committee, meaning it is being held on to for more work or possible reconsideration.

House Bill 341 relative to permissible residential units in a residential zone requires that local legislative bodies permit by right certain single-family dwellings in residential districts to be used for up to four residential units. NH LAKES is concerned that allowing additional accessory dwelling units could create additional impervious surface areas near lakes, increasing polluted runoff water, and negatively impact water quality. Increasing occupancy of shorefront property would also place an increased demand on septic system capacity and function in areas not sewered. NH LAKES contends that an increase in accessory dwelling units in the 250-foot shorefront area should be accompanied by appropriate treatment of polluted runoff water and the inspection, and, if necessary, upgrading of onsite septic systems. The bill was voted ‘Inexpedient to Legislate’ by the House Municipal and County Government Committee.