By: Kyle Pimental, Strafford Regional Planning Commission

NEWMARKET – Thanks to a collaborative effort, the Town of Newmarket has a new water resources master plan chapter.

In 2019, the Strafford Regional Planning Commission (SRPC) received funding through the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) Local Source Water Protection Grant Program to carry out several drinking water protection projects in the region. Part of the grant included providing customized technical assistance to any municipality in the region wishing to implement an eligible drinking water protection activity, such as the development of a water resources master plan chapter, groundwater protection overlay zoning district, or municipal water resource management plan.

To solicit project ideas, SRPC announced the funding opportunity through its communication network and requested that interested communities submit proposals. Upon completing the project solicitation phase, the Town of Newmarket’s plan to update the water resource chapter of the master plan was chosen as the pilot project to be undertaken as part of the grant.

Newmarket’s previous water resources chapter was last updated in 2009 and did not account for the substantial changes in the patterns and intensity of land development the Town experienced over the past decade. Nor did it include adequate information to effectively deal with emerging contaminants, such as PFAS, on a long-term basis. Additionally, climate conditions have produced increased flood and storm events, as well as periods of severe drought, resulting in environmental conditions that have placed a higher demand on the municipal water supply and local aquifers.

The update process was led by principal regional planner, Kyle Pimental, and environmental planner, Alaina Rogers, with guidance provided by a steering committee made up of town staff, several members of the Planning Board, a Town Councilor, a Conservation Commission representative, and an active community champion who also happened to be a water quality scientist. One of several key goals of the update was to recommend policies, regulations, and actions that place a stronger emphasis on adaptation and resilience. Examples include:

  • Consider adopting stricter buffer requirements for setbacks to wetlands that include consideration of climate change to protect land that allows coastal habitats and populations to adapt to changing conditions and provides ecosystem services.
  • Review the updated floodplain model ordinance from NH Office of Strategic Initiatives and update the Town’s floodplain ordinance once FEMA maps are approved and adopted.
  • Incorporate impacts to municipal infrastructure identified in the C-RiSe project into current and future capital infrastructure projects.
  • Revisit the Climate Resiliency in Moonlight Brook report to accomplish remaining ICLEI (International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives) milestones identified in the plan.
  • Incorporate climate resilience benefits, such as future flood storage, salt marsh migration, etc., into [Open Space Plan] scoring criteria to ensure the Town considers climate adaptation benefits when evaluating land for conservation purposes.
  • Identify and implement green infrastructure and nature-based approaches to improve flood resilience and stormwater management throughout the Town referenced in the New Hampshire Flood Hazard Handbook.
  • Use resources, such as the NH Statewide Asset Data Exchange System (SADES) crossing database, Resilient Tidal Crossing Assessment, and the C-RiSe climate ready culvert analysis, to identify infrastructure projects for inclusion in the Capital Improvements Plan that would assist with long-term planning decisions regarding the placement, design, and size of new culverts.
  • Integrate climate adaptation measures into all future master plan updates.
  • Use the New Hampshire Living Shoreline Site Suitability Assessment to identify sites in Newmarket that may be suitable for specific living shoreline approaches to address erosion issues along the tidal shoreline.
  • Explore options to develop a creative outreach campaign to educate the public on future coastal flood risk (i.e., high-water mark initiative, participation in the king tide photo contest, etc.) at public spaces.

As a member of the Newmarket Planning Board, I would like to thank Kyle Pimental for his outstanding commitment and support during the process of updating the Water Resources chapter of Newmarket’s Master plan. Kyle’s expertise, enthusiasm, and proactive attitude were pivotal for the success of this project. The newly incorporated information in the chapter will allow us to better manage and protect the community’s precious water resources that are being increasingly threatened by the impacts of climate change and rapid development. – Michal Zahorik

The chapter was formally adopted by the Planning Board following a public hearing on November 10, 2020, and will serve as a guiding document for the protection and use of Newmarket’s water resources for the Town and its residents for the next 10-years.

Photo credit: Bill Doucet