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Sunapee Watershed Infrastructure Project

LSPA’s Watershed Steward, Robert Wood, is a principal investigator in an ambitious new undertaking in the Sunapee Watershed. Residents and municipalities will benefit from a recent grant awarded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to several New England researchers to investigate the adequacy of stormwater infrastructure in the 50 square mile watershed.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) awarded the Lake Sunapee Protective Association and a team of scientists from Antioch University New England and Syntectic International of Portland, Oregon the grant to study and prepare the Lake Sunapee watershed for increased stormwater runoff. The project partners wanted to protect a study site comprised of vulnerable stormwater and drinking-water systems, provide climate adaptation information to support community-driven decision-making, and disseminate results to promote safe communities nationwide. By providing decision-support the study promotes a key recommendation of the IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report. By developing a reliable, local-scale adaptation protocol, the project will maintain historical flood protection levels for the study site and other communities facing significant impacts from climate change and population growth.

Funded by NOAA's Climate Program Office, five of the eight researchers on the team are either Antioch University New England faculty members or alumni. The interdisciplinary group includes Latham Stack of Syntectic International; Michael Simpson, Jim Gruber, and Colin Lawson of Antioch University New England; Dr. Robert Roseen of the University of New Hampshire Storm Water Center; Thomas Crosslin of Climate Techniques in Portland, Oregon; Robert Wood of the Lake Sunapee Protective Association; and internationally recognized adaptation expert Joel Smith of Stratus Consulting in Boulder, Colorado.

The project, funded by the Climate Program Office of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, will focus on the Lake Sunapee watershed. This region, like many others, is experiencing an unusual and ongoing period of extreme or record rainfalls that significantly diverge from the historical climate pattern. Previous New England studies by the team found that portions of existing drainage systems are currently undersized as a result of already-changed rainfall patterns. "Recent experience and scientific studies are clear," said Michael Simpson, director of Antioch University New England’s Resource Management and Conservation program. "Storm patterns are worsening and it is no longer prudent to delay action. We will never have perfect science, however sufficient science is available now. This project will protect the community with adequately reliable, local-scale information to support informed decisions." By encouraging the participation of community members, the project will empower citizens to choose adaptation plans that are best for their towns. For example, Low Impact Development methods can minimize runoff and significantly reduce the need for more expensive drainage system upgrades.

According to Latham Stack, CEO of Syntectic International LLC, “The availability of reliable and economical solutions can make the difference between returning to historical protection levels, or continuing to expose people and assets to worsening hazards." Simpson explained that stormwater engineers and planners have always needed to cope with uncertainty and change, and the construction of water systems designed using best-available knowledge has always proceeded in parallel with the development of theory. “The past was not as certain as we like to think, and problems posed by population growth and climate change are not that different from previous challenges," said Stack. Project methods will be broadly transferable, according to Simpson. The project team hopes to catalyze similar work nationwide, reducing further loss of life and damage from worsening storms. By demonstrating a practical protocol for action, this work provides urgently needed decision-support to leaders seeking to maintain historical protection levels in their communities.

The field work for the project began with resident volunteers and Antioch graduate students began in the fall of 2009. The intent was to cover all 180 known culverts and bridges. this was accomplished, with unrecorded culverts measured as well. Meanwhile, scientists on the project are currently looking at historic changes in rainfall amounts over the last 30 years in comparison with rainfall data from the last century to understand the storm event increases. for more inforamtion as the project proceeds, see detail below:

Current News & Topics

Lake Sunapee NOAA Infrastructure Project
NOAA & LSPA Sponsored Sunapee Area Infrastructure Project Underway

Lake Sunapee Watershed Spring Newsletter
Spring newsletter for the Sunapee Watershed Infrastructure Project Updates & Highlights

NOAA Project and Local Participants discuss Stormwater
NOAA Project researchers and leaders and local Participants discuss Stormwater Infrastructure in the Sunapee area

NOAA Project Meeting Minutes
NOAA Infrastructure Project Meeting Results

Sunapee Watershed Infrastructure Project (SWIP) Moves Along
Watershed Infrastructure Project (SWIP) Moves Along-Stakeholders Meet and Upcoming Workshops

Project volunteer identifying a culvert for post-measurement photo.

Project Team Members: Michael Simpson, Latham Stack and Jim Gruber


Links to Local Regulations:

Newbury Town

New London Town

Springfield Town

Sunapee Town

Links to State Regulations:

DES Comprehensive Shoreland Protection Act