The state legislature established NH’s River Management & Protection Program (RMPP) in 1988 in response to the increasing and often competing uses of our rivers resources. This program, founded with the passage of RSA 483, sought to formally recognize and protect certain NH rivers, called Designated Rivers, for their outstanding resources and provide local communities and others with vested river interests a direct participation in local resource management and future development along these river corridors. RSA 483:1 and RSA 483:2 clearly details the policy and intent of the legislature, the latter including to restore, protect and maintain outstanding characteristics and existing riparian rights without preempting any land and zoning authority granted to municipalities under RSA title LXIV. Since 1988, local groups have successfully nominated eighteen NH rivers into this program, which is administered by the NH Department of Environmental Services (NHDES).
For a river to achieve Designated status, an interested individual or organized group must first develop a formal River Nomination document that includes an extensive inventory of the river’s values, characteristics, and significant resources. In the process of accumulating documentation for the Nomination, the group studies the river to decide the limits of the Designated River corridor and the shorter segments, called Classifications, according to each segment’s character and past, existing or possible future use.
This is the revised Warner River Classifications map reflecting community input.
Protection Measures for Designated Rivers
By delineating the Designated River corridor and assigning Classifications, an extra level of state protection for significant instream river resources, particularly water quality and instream flows, is created. The Warner River and fourth order stream tributaries are already protected by the Shoreland Water Quality Protection Act (SWQPA, RSA 483-B), which limits activities within two hundred fifty feet of the river and fourth order streams in order to protect water quality. A Designated River Corridor extends one quarter of a mile and the Classification System was created to match general river characteristics with specific instream flow protections related to dams, hydroelectric energy facilities, channel alterations, water quality, protected instream flows, interbasin water transfers, siting of solid and hazardous waste storage or treatment facilities, and recreational uses of the river. RSA 483:9, 483:9-a, 483:9-aa, and 483:9-b describe the protection measures for natural, rural, rural-community and community rivers, respectively. This NHRMPP River Classifications and State Regulated Protection Measures by Classification Fact Sheet provides a quick reference table that shows the protections of the RMPP and the SWQPA.
Upon completion of the River Nomination document and the Designated River Corridor & Classification Map, the group conducts a period of public outreach to educate riverside residents and local watershed communities about the river and the RMPP to gain feedback, input and support for the proposal. Support by local municipal officials and riverfront residents must be sought and reported. Once this outreach process is completed, the group submits the River Nomination to the NHDES Commissioner for review and a state-level public hearing is held. If enough public support is received and the River Nomination approved by the Commissioner, it is forwarded to the NH Legislature and, if passed, signed into law under RSA 483 by the Governor.
The Nomination Timeline
The Nomination Timeline is closely associated with the time needed to assemble the River Nomination, the period of public outreach necessary to gain support for the Nomination and the calendar of the NH Legislature:
Anytime – An individual or group assembles the River Nomination document and the Designated Corridor Map, conducts a period of public outreach to gain feedback and support and makes necessary changes.
June/July 1 – The formal documents are submitted to the NHDES Commissioner for Review and a Public Hearing is held for the Department to gain feedback on the Nomination (review to be completed in 120 days).
Late October/Early November – The NHDES Commissioner either approves or disapproves the Nomination. If approved, the Nomination and supporting documentation are sent to the General Court and a draft legislative bill is written for the Nomination and scheduled into the Legislature’s calendar for the following year’s session.
January/February (following year) – The legislature entertains a formal presentation by the group proposing the Nomination and listens to public feedback, then either approves or disapproves the bill. If the bill is approved and passes both legislative houses, the bill is forwarded to the Governor for signature and RSA 483 is amended to include the river within the RMPP.
When a River Achieves Designated Status
Once a river is Designated, a local river advisory committee (LAC) is formed. This committee is comprised of representatives from the local towns and special interest groups and businesses having vested interests along the Designated River Corridor. The broad diversity of the committee interests ensures a variety of input when resource protection and development is considered.
The LAC meets monthly and is tasked with:
- Preparing a River Corridor Management Plan – a more in-depth study of the river, including survey feedback from local communities and suggested guidelines related to maintaining or enhancing high water quality and in-stream flows (A Designated River must have and maintain Class B water quality or higher to be in the program);
- Providing the state Rivers Management & Protection Committee with regular feedback on the river’s status; and
- Reviewing and advising on certain state and federal permit proposals for development along the river corridor.
Post designation, the role of NHDES is to assist with the development and implementation of the management plan and enforce regulations concerning the water quality and quantity of flow within the protected river segments.
Since its inception, the RMPP program has successfully enabled local communities and vested interest groups to more effectively balance the needs and uses of these rivers’ valuable resources. Designated River’s receive priority assistance from NHDES and priority grant funding from a variety of resources. Designated River signs are posted along the river (shown above) to generate awareness about the river’s unique value and exemplary characteristics.
We have provided many links below, primarily taken from the NHDES RMPP Webpage, which provide more information about Designated Rivers, the RMPP and local LACs.
Central New Hampshire Regional Planning Commission
The Meaning of River Designation into the NHRMPP 01-14
Example Benefits of River Designation into the NHRMPP 01-14
Joint Lakes and Rivers Committees’ Recommendations for Comprehensive Surface Water Resource Management Policy
The New Hampshire Rivers Management and Protection Program (RMPP) (Fact Sheet R&L-2)
Rivers Management and Protection Program Webpage
A Guide to River Nominations (WD-15-02)
NH Rivers Management and Protection Program River Classifications and State Regulated Protection Measures by Classification (Fact Sheet R&L-14)
The NH Protected Instream Flow Program (DES Fact Sheet WD-R&L-28)
Local Advisory Committees
Local River Advisory Committee Information and Blog
Local River Management Advisory Committees
RSA 483: New Hampshire Rivers Management and Protection Program
Env-Wq 1700 – Recently Adopted Surface Water Quality Standards
Env-Wq 1800 – Designated River Nomination Rules
Env-Ws 1900 – Instream Flow Rules
About NH Surface Water Resource Management
Comprehensive Surface Water Management NHLAC & NHRMAC 1232013