EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

May 17, 2013

Letter: N.H. Senate water bill threatens property rights

The Eagle-Tribune

---- — To the editor:

On May 22, the New Hampshire House of Representatives will vote on Senate Bill 11. It was written to enable Exeter and Stratham to jointly form a water-sewer district. But that capability already exists in state laws that enabled the creation of the Merrimack Valley Regional Water District.

The bill is unnecessary and should be killed. It contains broad, far-reaching language, including this:

“Therefore, the general court declares and determines that the waters of New Hampshire constitute a limited and precious public resource to be protected, conserved and managed in the interest of present and future generations.”

The “waters of New Hampshire” could be broadly interpreted to mean that all water resources are defined as public resources, regardless of location, source (lakes, river streams, ponds, wells) or whether public or private property.

This would set a dangerous unconstitutional precedent. It could also lead to private wells and septic systems being taxed and “protected, conserved and managed” by newly created, powerful government bodies – whether or not you wish to participate in a water-sewer district.

SB11 also puts into question the ownership of rain. Several states regulate the collection of rainwater. An Oregon man was fined over $1,500 and sentenced to 30 days in jail for collecting rainwater for personal use.

Another concern is the responsibility for the management of wastewater: “This requires careful stewardship and management of water and wastewater within the state.”

The bill does not define “wastewater,” which could lead to radically different interpretations – and serious consequences. For instance, the EPA classifies rainwater runoff (including water that flows off your roof and driveway) as a pollutant and includes it as part of its definition of wastewater.

In 2010, the EPA mandated that Maryland control rain water runoff. The projected cost is $14.8B and led to a tax on rain, based upon the percentage of “impervious surfaces” (roofs, driveways, parking lots, etc.) on personal property.

The term “impervious surfaces” is in New Hampshire town master plans (including Windham’s), laying the groundwork for SB11 to impose similar taxes on ALL property. Is this what we want? We already have legislation in place to protect our water and to enable intermunicipal agreements between towns.

Water is an essential element of life. Do you want the government to take control of water on your property to “protect, conserve and manage” it in the “interest of present and future generations”?

Our founding fathers believed that liberty and property are inseparable – and protected our property rights in our U.S. and New Hampshire constitutions. If SB11 is codified into law, what type of freedom will remain?

Please contact your state legislators and ask them to vote no.

Ken Eyring