Grants Available to Protect Drinking Water in Local I-93 Corridor

The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES) recently announced approximately $1.3 million in grants to protect drinking water supply lands in the southern Interstate 93 corridor communities will become available this fall.

The grant money, which comes from a fund established to offset impacts to wetlands and streams associated with the widening of I-93, will be administered by the NHDES’s Water Supply Land Protection Grant Program.

“This is an existing program designed to protect water supply, specifically the quality and quantity, with $1.3 million just for I-93 corridor towns affected by the construction,” Londonderry Conservation Commissioner Mike Speltz said.

The I-93 highway improvements will result in impacts to Windham, Derry, Manchester and Londonderry, with Londonderry to absorb the majority, 30 acres of impact, where previously it faced 27 acres of impact.

Earlier this year, Speltz and Commissioner Deb Lievens argued at a hearing in Londonderry of the New Hampshire Department of Transportation (DOT) and the DES that more mitigation funds should be directed toward Londonderry.

“Philosophically, this is still an issue. But we put our opinions on the table and they chose to move forward,” Lievens said.

The drinking water supply grants could advance the Town’s goal of mitigating impacts resulting from I-93 construction, according to Speltz, who thinks there are projects in town for which the Commission could apply for grant funds to complete.

“We don’t have landowners lined up yet, but there is interest in pursuing this. We would also need to get the Town Council to agree to it,” he said.

For the upcoming grant round, municipalities and non-profit land trusts may apply for grants to cover up to 50 percent of the value of land or conservation easements critical to the quality of public drinking water supplies.  At the 50 percent level, the state portion is twice what it was in earlier grant rounds.

The DES will notify eligible applicants by Dec. 15, and final applications will be due on Feb. 15, 2016. Grants will be awarded based on priority ranking and availability of funding. There’s no guarantee Londonderry will see any of the mitigation funds.

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