September 2017: Salmon Falls Watershed Collaborative Success Safari

Salmon Falls Watershed Collaborative at the Keay Brook Preserve in Berwick, Maine.

It’s been eight years since the inception of the Salmon Falls Watershed Collaborative– a collaborative group of partners working to improve watershed planning and management in the Salmon Falls River watershed. The Salmon Falls watershed is one of a handful of subwatersheds that make up the Piscataqua Region watershed. Encompassing ten communities in New Hampshire and eight communities in Maine, the entire watershed is 232.5 square miles. Starting at the headwaters at Great East Lake in Acton, ME and Wakefield, NH the river meanders through the landscape approximately 37.5 miles before the Cocheco River in South Berwick, ME.You may remember that last summer, PREP joined several the partners in the Salmon Falls Watershed Collaborative and interested citizens in the first Salmon Falls Success Safari. It was an opportunity to see some of the success across the watershed, including conserved properties, creative planning, a new boat ramp, and much more. You can read about last year’s safari HERE.

With a successful trip last year, the Salmon Falls Watershed Collaborative felt it was important to keep the success safaris going and maintain momentum to protect this vulnerable watershed. The second annual Salmon Falls Success Safari kicked off Wednesday morning at the City of Rochester Drinking Water Treatment Facility. More than 20 partners from 15 joined to listen to presentations from partners across the watershed.

Presentations in the morning included an update from Owen Friend-Gray from the Rochester Department of Public Works about the technical assistance grant the city received from EPA to develop a long-term stormwater management plan. The long-term stormwater management plan will include an asset management plan, a new stormwater management chapter, a financing strategy for the stormwater program, identify stormwater opportunities for public projects, and aim to revitalize Rochester’s waterways. Owen also talked about another project the city is working on with Greening America’s Communities to work on stormwater management projects along the Cocheco River and a municipal parking lot.

Next James Houle of the UNH Stormwater Center talked about how communities can use hot spot analysis to identify opportunities for stormwater implementation projects, and the importance of being flexible when it comes to planning. Specifically he focused on the successes with the Berry Brook project in Dover, and how working with the people responsible for implementing and maintaining stormwater management practices was an important tool for success.
Karl Honkonen of the US Forest Service spoke about the importance of investing in water management through conservation and protection of uplands, and how investing early can offset costs associated with treatment. Additionally Karl talked about grant opportunities through the US Forest Service  to protect and manage private lands. According the US Forest Service, private forest lands supply roughly 30% of the water we drink, clean air we breathe, wildlife habitat, and recreational opportunities.Continuing this theme, Pete Steckler, GIS & Conservation Project Manager for The Nature Conservancy shared a presentation on a new GIS layer – Land Conservation Priorities for the Protection of Coastal Water Resources. The layer identifies lands that if converted will have the greatest impact or if protected will provide the greatest benefit for public water supply, pollution attenuation and removal (water quality), and flood attenuation and risk management. By combining these areas communities and conservation organizations can identify lands that will provide multiple benefits. The layers are available on the NH Coastal Viewer.

Our last presentation before changing locations was from Shanna Saunders, the Planning Director for the City of Somersworth. Somersworth recently completed a Natural Resource Assessment with the Strafford Regional Planning Commission and support from a PREPA grant project back in 2016. The assessment is intended to provide information about habitats and resources to support land use decisions and conservation priorities.

Following the morning presentations, the group traveled to Berwick, Maine to visit the Keay Brook Preserve, an 86- acre parcel on the Salmon Falls River recently conserved by the Great Works Regional Land Trust. The preserve contributes to a 229 acre block of conserved land along the river, including nearly two miles of frontage.

After a beautiful walk around the trail network in the preserve, the day wrapped up with a final presentation and discussion from Starr Glenn of the Berwick Water Department about the importance of protecting drinking water sources  through conservation and best management practices on the landscape. Starr beautifully summed up the day’s activities by saying:

“In order to run our water treatment facility properly, we have to start with the source – the Salmon Falls River.”

We couldn’t agree more, Starr. Thank you to everyone who participated in this year’s Salmon Falls Watershed Collaborative Success Safari, and the Drinking Water and Groundwater Bureau at DES and EPA for organizing the day’s events. If you have questions about the Salmon Falls Watershed Collaborative, or want to get involved please contact

PREP is part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Estuary Program, a joint program between local, state and federal agencies established under the Clean Water Act with the goal of protecting and enhancing nationally significant estuarine resources. PREP is supported in part by an EPA matching grant and is housed within the School of Marine Science and Ocean Engineering at the University of New Hampshire.