May 11, 2021

Pamela G. Monroe
NH Department of Environmental Services
29 Hazen Drive
P.O. Box 95
Concord, NH 03302-0095

Via email: pamela.g.monroe@des.nh.gov

Re: Registration of Legally Existing Docking Structures in Non-Tidal Waters

Dear Ms. Monroe:

Connecticut River Conservancy (CRC) is thankful for the opportunity to comment on Department of Environmental Services rulemaking Env-Wq 1000. If adopted, this rulemaking will reduce landowner burden while maintaining NH DES authority and requirement to protect wetlands, shorelands, and our waterways. CRC encourages additional language in this rule to limit the use of unenclosed expanded polystyrene foam (EPS) in dock reconstruction or repair to protect our waterways and aquatic species.

The public purpose of 482-A, as stated is to, “protect and preserve its submerged lands under tidal and fresh waters and its wetlands… from despoliation and unregulated alteration, because such despoliation or unregulated alteration will adversely affect the value of such areas as sources of nutrients for finfish, crustacea, shellfish and wildlife of significant value…”[1]

Specifically, CRC would request additional language under Env-Wt 1003.01 (b) (4), such as, “A statement that the docking structure to be repaired or replaced is not the subject of any municipal or state compliance action or pending civil action, that the docking structure is not constructed with unenclosed expanded polystyrene foam; and…” to ensure that we are not permitting docks in our waterways that would violate the intent of RSA 482-A.

CRC is tasked with monitoring and ensuring the health of the Connecticut River system, including its tributary rivers. We have found that temporary and seasonal docks installed the River and its tributaries can be major contributors to persistent plastic pollution. Some docks are constructed of unenclosed expanded polystyrene foam (EPS); most commonly referred to by the brand name Styrofoam®. When exposed to active water systems such as rivers and streams, EPS degrades at a steady rate, breaking down into miniscule plastic chunks which pollute our waterways and choke our wildlife.

Storms, high-water events, and the installation of and removal of seasonal docks often tear large chunks of aging EPS off the docks; we have all seen comically buoyant masses of blue foam floating down our rivers after rough weather. These chunks are unsightly, become obstacles for wildlife, and continuously shed microscopic plastic bits. These microplastics are consumed by river aquatic species, where the plastics accumulate; eventually consumed by birds, mammals, and humans.

CRC and our members engage in an annual Source to Sea River Cleanup, where our volunteers consistently remove cubic yards of polystyrene from our waterways, including large chunks of polystyrene dock floats annually. Plastic foam is difficult to clean up because it breaks into small bits that are nearly impossible to collect. Temporary or seasonal docks made of unenclosed EPS have no place in our river systems.

CRC has researched available dock alternatives as part of our “Swap Your Dock” initiative.[2] Our research finds that unenclosed EPS docks, which deteriorate and fail over time, are not only dangerous for waterways but also uneconomic. The estimated cost of EPS docks over a 30-year period is 27 times the cost of docks constructed with used 55-gallon barrels due to the need to replace or repair EPS docks as they degrade. 55-gallon barrels are commonly used in dock construction, easily available, highly durable, and an excellent opportunity to recycle. Even prefabricated docks built of substantial molded polystyrene cubes are more economical. These pre-fabs have the advantage of recyclability and are often produced through a zero-waste manufacturing process.[3]

Given the above economic alternatives to the cheap and common EPS temporary seasonal docks, CRC respectfully suggests that additional language be included in this rulemaking to limit the use of unenclosed EPS in temporary and seasonal dock repair and reconstruction. This change could be established without any long-term economic burden on the citizens of New Hampshire.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this rulemaking.

Sincerely,

Kathy Urffer, River Steward
kurffer@ctriver.org

802-258-0413

[1] Chapter 482-A accessed at: http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/rsa/html/l/482-a/482-a-mrg.htm on 5/11/21.

[2] https://www.ctriver.org/wp-content/uploads/CRC-30yr-Floatation-Comparison-Final.pdf

[3] See additional information at: https://www.ctriver.org/our-work/source-to-sea-cleanup/swap-your-dock/