DIXVILLE – Dixville Capital, LLC, which aims to revitalize The Balsams, is proposing to compensate for impacts to streams and wetlands from ski terrain and other expansion by preserving three distinct parcels with approximately 917 acres, all offering similar or higher value habitat features.
This proposed preliminary mitigation package include at least 243 acres of wetlands and some 43,000 linear feet – more than seven miles – on a stream, based on aerial photo-interpretation.
The first part of the proposal includes 133 acres along Sanguinary Ridge featuring relatively high-elevation terrain ranging from 2,600 to 3,100 feet that abuts the existing 5,700-acre conservation easement held by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests (SPNHF). This would both protect the ridge thought to have wind farm potential from development and provide connectivity between Dixville State Park and the SPNHF easement.
The second part of the proposal includes 93 acres of mid-elevation terrain – 1,500 to 2,300 feet in elevation – that is adjacent to the 127-acre Dixville Notch State Park. The Park features a scenic gorge and waterfalls on two mountain brooks, plus hiking trails to Table Rock and nearby mountains. Its habitat is similar to that of much of the ski terrain impacts.
The third part – the linear Clear Stream parcel – makes up by far the largest acreage slated for preservation: 691 acres of predominantly low-elevation terrain that includes some steep mid-elevation habitats along the Clear Stream wetland complex and associated upland with an elevation of 1,300 to 2,700 feet. An exception is proposed within this parcel: a utility corridor for both a 24-inch-diameter snowmaking water main and a transmission line, plus a work road.
The developer points out that the low-elevation terrain in the Clear Stream parcel would protect and buffer a very high-value wetland and stream complex along Route 26, east of the resort. It, too, abuts Dixville Notch State Park, providing additional connectivity.
“The inclusion of the mid-elevation terrain within the State Park and the Clear Stream parcels, could with the high-value wetlands in the Clear Stream wetland complex, provide approximately 2 to 1 compensation for state-regulated permanent and temporary stream impacts, and stream buffer conversion,” the developer wrote to NHDES in the submission, named the Preliminary Compensatory Wetland Mitigation Plan.
“Although the precise extent of wetland impacts are now known, they are anticipated to be relatively low,” exceeding the 10:1 preservation ratio for most wetlands recommended in the state mitigation rules and in the New England U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ mitigation guidance,” the developer states.
The same may also be said of the proposed stream preservation package.
Even though the impacts would be incurred over the project’s full build-out – planned to begin in 2015 and to take more than a decade to complete – that is, at least 2025, The Balsams proposes to place the three compensation parcels under easement protection before any project construction actually begins.
DRED has provided a letter of interest to hold the easement on these three parcels, although SPNHF may end up holding the Sanguinary Ridge easement since it abuts their existing easement.
“Estimated wetland and stream impacts are described in the Dredge & Fill Permit application, and in summary, are expected to include approximately 2.5 aces of permanent impacts, 2.5 aces of vegetation conversion in buffer areas of perennial and intermittent streams, and 0.3 acres of temporary impacts,” the developer writes. “Estimated linear impacts to steams include 950 feet of permanent impact to perennial and intermittent streams, and 1,250 feet of temporary impact…. Most wetland impacts will occur in forested wetland, although many of those wetlands are in early stages of succession due to recent logging activities and thus include scrub-shrub and emergent marsh-wet meadow cover types.
“Additional impacts within high-elevation spruce-fir habitat due to ski trail and lift line clearing are estimated as 317 acres, approximately one-third (105 acres) of which will occur in Phase I.
“The remainder will be spread out over multiple years as the project expands to its full potential,” the developer writes.
Dixville Capital spokesmen pointed out at the Feb. 26 meeting of the Coös County Planning Board for the Unincorporated Places that the 24-inch pipeline would not run over or under the dramatic Dixville Notch “lip” on Route 26, preserving the spectacular and iconic view of Lake Gloriette and clustered buildings.
Dixville Capital’s introduction to its Wetland Application documents includes an estimate of 54,000 expected skier visits in its first year of operation and up to 500,000 per year as The Balsams Wilderness becomes the largest ski area in the Northeast, complete with the most advanced snowmaking and grooming equipment.
“Our restoration of the historic Donald Ross-designed Panorama golf course and renovation of the clubhouse in Phase 2 will also become a huge draw,” writes the developer.
The nine-hole lower golf course would become a day parking area and its two wetlands would likely be permanently filled. “Because of the hydrology associated with these wetlands and diversion of surface water (there would be) little impact on the quality of the surface or ground water exiting the site,” the report continues.
The developers have proposed installing a permanent docking structure at Lake Gloriette that would total 7,550 square feet. As a result of a developer’s inquiry, NHDES Commissioner Tom Burack determined on Feb. 11 that The Balsams proposed redevelopment project meets the specified criteria so that it can be expedited since it “will further an important public interest by promoting economic development and improving environmental conditions.” There are no other pending applications that would be unreasonably disadvantaged, he also noted. Wetlands Bureau specialist Sandra Mattfeldt was named the NHDES’ point person.
Dixville Capital expected that Phase I would include restoration of “the hallowed Ballot Room,” so it would be ready for New Hampshire’s Presidential Primary in early 2016, which always draws worldwide attention.
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