Bill should kill Canterbury landfill plan

Supporters of a bill barring the construction of new landfills along 841 miles of New Hampshire’s rivers hope it would bring an end to a planned facility near the Merrimack River in Canterbury.

Witnesses urged a House committee last month to back a Senate-passed bill that would increase the distance landfills could be sited along segments of 14 rivers designated as “rural” under the state’s rivers management and protection program. The program offers differing protections under the various river designations.

“These are rivers we cherish,” said Rep. Frank Tupper, a co-sponsor of the measure.

Jim Presher, the director of the Concord Regional Solid Waste/Resource Recovery Cooperative, a regional trash cooperative that serves the Concord area that purchased property in 1999 to build the landfill, told the panel the cooperative wouldn’t be able to build on the site if the new restrictions pass. One mile of the proposed 295-acre property fronts the Merrimack River.

Presher said the co-op has invested more than $2 million on the property and preliminary plans for the site. He asked the lawmakers to amend the bill to grandfather the Canterbury site.

When the property was purchased, he said, existing regulations allowed him to build a landfill on about 60 acres. If the bill is passed, he said he would only be able to build on three acres.

Essentially, the bill would offer the same protections to rural rivers that are now afforded to rivers in the northern part of the state. New landfills are prohibited within the corridors of rivers carrying the “natural” designation.

The 14 segments addressed currently by the bill cover 823 miles. The change could also affect 18 miles of the Ammonoosuc River that is under consideration for the rural designation, witnesses said.

If approved, the change would essentially doom construction of a landfill along the Merrimack River in Canterbury that a 27-town cooperative proposed two years ago.

Thomas Burack, commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Services, has voiced support for the bill.

Rep. Jim Powers, a Portsmouth Democrat who co-sponsored the bill, said, “I don’t think it makes a lot of sense to put landfills near rivers but if you need to, there are still plenty of places in the state that are not impacted by this bill,” Powers said.

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