By Don Eriksson
PEPPERELL — A draft memorandum of understanding (MOU) from the Nashua River Watershed Association (NRWA), aimed at a regional agreement to protect the Nashua and Squannacook Rivers, is nice but nearly pointless as written, Pepperell selectmen told NRWA circuit rider Mark Archambault.
The selectmen’s verdict was rendered at the conclusion of a half-hour presentation in which Archambault explained how the NRWA is seeking an intermunicipal and interstate agreement to promote protection of the two rivers.
The agreement would include towns in two states and four counties — Ashby, Groton, Pepperell, Shirley and Townsend, and the New Hampshire towns of Brookline, Greenville, Hollis, Mason, Milford and New Ipswich.
The draft agreement is being presented to all potential member towns and is aimed at keeping the two rivers in their pristine condition, thereby protecting the resources of downstream communities within and outside of the basin. The MOU would include creation and maintenance of a database to keep everyone informed of decisions made and actions taken, Archambault said.
The MOU grew out of an EPA grant that emphasizes heightened awareness of water protection goals. No obligation is affixed for any town and zoning remains unaffected.
Archambault was unsure whether town meeting action would be needed to ratify Pepperell’s membership.
Town administrator Robert Hanson said town meeting action may not be necessary because years ago the town voted “blanket authority” for committees to join those in other towns. It was strengthened by an amendment made four years ago.
“I’ve read this (10-page document) and I’m not sure what you’re trying to achieve. What’s the benefit?” Selectman Joseph Sergi asked.
Archambault answered that Pepperell may be affected by something done upstream, plus it would be aware of activities underway.
Sergi characterized the draft as a “feel good” MOU, and Archambault said that is too “lightweight” an assessment.
Sergi said Pepperell may do the things suggested in the MOU as a matter of course.
Archambault argued that the NRWA would facilitate communication and, although the MOU language is intentionally “wishy-washy,” it is specific as any other.
“If you asked me about value-added, maybe it needs more refining,” Sergi said. “We do have to cooperate (with other communities) but we do that anyway.”
“I understand what you’re trying to do,” Chairman Lyndon Johnson said. “It’s something that has to be done. We need fresh water, but I agree it’s kind of an open document without much substance.”
Selectman Patrick McNabb asked what Archambault would need from Pepperell right away. Archambault answered, information on water tanks and perhaps storm water management information similar to that used by regional planning agencies.
“It says all the right things but I need something to latch onto,” Sergi said.
Archambault said he and the steering committee assisting him will try to further refine the draft.