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PEPPERELL — A federal program could help control invasive weeds in a stretch of the Nashua River known as Pepperell Pond, but there are also concerns it could present a hurdle for local efforts to spur redevelopment at the old mill off Main Street.

Those issues were raised before the Board of Selectmen on Monday, when Al Futterman of the Nashua River Watershed Association came to speak about prospects of Pepperell’s three major rivers being designated Wild and Scenic Rivers under the National Parks Service, an idea currently being promoted by U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas.

Futterman was before the selectmen seeking a one- sentence letter of support for that process, which would begin with a multiyear study of the river’s current resources and protections and — if things fall into place — would move to Town Meeting votes to accept the designation in 11 communities along those rivers.

“It would only be granted if the study shows outstanding resources and a local commitment to protect them,” he said.

Under consideration are the Nashua, Nissitissit and Squannacook rivers.

In terms of benefits, Futterman said the study would provide a great deal of information about ways to protect the rivers as environmental and recreational resources. Should Town Meeting and Congress determine the rivers are “outstanding” resources, he said the member communities could share an annual federal appropriation of roughly $170,000 toward enhancing and preserving the rivers, saying those funds could be used for anything from controlling weeds to improving boat access.

While selectmen were supportive of protecting the rivers, they also expressed concern about how the designation could create hurdles for the local hyrdroelectic plant and mill redevelopment off Main Street.

“I’m a little worried that something like this — though I support it in general… could hurt the town from a financial standpoint,” said selectmen Chairman Patrick McNabb.

Futterman responded that existing operations like the hyrdroelectic plant would be grandfathered. He also said certain areas could be exempted by the town, though he didn’t have specifics on how large of an area could be left out.

The discussion ended with selectmen saying they wanted an answer to that question, along with a chance to hear from the local hyrdroelectic company, before making any decision.

Futterman said he could relay those concerns to the National Parks Service, adding the designation would not put the rivers under public control, wouldn’t require new permits or regulation, or impact existing land usage. Instead, he said the study committee would likely deliver recommendations, such as modifying riverside development setbacks from 50 to 75 feet.

“If they saw a project that was harmful, they’d probably make recommendations to make it less harmful, but it doesn’t have the teeth to put the kibosh on a given project,” said Futterman.

Also involved with the discussion was town Conservation Administrator Ellen Fisher, who was hopeful that federal funds could bolster Pepperell’s efforts to control invasive water chestnut plants in the Nashua River. She said the town was able to make great progress in that area with a $300,000 appropriation from the state Legislature a couple of years ago, but she added those funds have dried up and the weeds are expected to return.

“The projected need for a real eradication, to the point where it could be managed by people in canoes, was $500,000 over five years,” she said.

Fisher did not expect that Pepperell would receive all of those funds through the program, but both she and Futterman said the designation could help leverage other revenue sources.

“Any designation that sets our resources apart as being special really helps us,” said Fisher.

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