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Federal Lawmakers Seek 'Wild and Scenic' Designation For Nashua River

Nashua River Watershed Association

The Nashua River is one step closer to federal protections that are decades in the making.

Federal lawmakers from New Hampshire and Massachusetts introduced legislation Thursday to designate the river as "wild and scenic."

The designation would add scrutiny for federal projects that impact the river and two of its tributaries, and would help fund future preservation work.

It would be guided by a stewardship plan, which voters in 11 towns along the river approved this spring.

Elizabeth Ainsley Campbell, the executive director of the Nashua River Watershed Association, says the designation wouldn't affect any land use rights in the watershed, but it would help cement the Nashua River’s cultural and environmental significance.

"It elevates the stature of these three rivers – it brings some financial resources to them,” she says, “but in another way it elevates the whole stature of the river system within the Nashua River watershed."

Credit Nashua River Watershed Association
The Nashua River once "ran red" with toxic sludge and industrial waste from nearby factories.

Fifty years ago, that watershed was heavily polluted with toxic sludge.

After decades of clean-up and preservation work, Campbell says they’ve come a long way.

“The river is tremendously restored. The resources are spectacular,” Campbell says. “And we’re excited about continuing, because there is more to do.”

If designated, the Nashua and the two tributaries would join 185 miles of other rivers that already carry the title in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

Those include parts of the Lamprey and Wildcat Rivers in New Hampshire, and the Concord, Taunton and Westfield Rivers in Massachusetts – less than 1 percent total of all the river miles in the two states.

Annie has covered the environment, energy, climate change and the Seacoast region for NHPR since 2017. She leads the newsroom's climate reporting project, By Degrees.

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