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September 13. 2014 8:26PM

Dick Pinney's Guidelines: Great Bay's natural resources declining

THIS COLUMN is a copy of a report about the decline of the Great Bay natural resources that has happened over the span of my 76 years of living and loving Great Bay, to be read into the U.S. Congressional Record during a hearing on the relative health of Great Bay. This was requested of me by friend and retired New Hampshire Fish and Game official Eric Orff, who currently is employed by the Nature Conservancy to monitor the recovery of this wonderful resource that is now close to hopelessly being destroyed by civilization:

"My name is Richard B. Pinney, a/k/a Dick Pinney. I've lived on the shores of New Hampshire's tidal water Great Bay for over 50 years, not counting the time spent at my grandmother's camp on 'the Bay,' where I learned to swim at age 4.

"In all those years we've seen tremendous changes to both the Bay and surrounding areas, and not that many have been positive. We feel that the tremendous amounts of nitrogen-laden effluent released into the Great Bay system by just about all the communities within 30 miles of this precious resource has been the blame for most of these harmful effects.

"As a kid, (I) remember that ice-in on Great Bay was always before New Year's Day, an event that allowed hundreds of ice fishermen, some commercial and mostly recreational were out on the ice on that holiday, their quarry was the incredible schools of saltwater smelt that flooded the iced-over bay to feed and eventually in the spring run up the Great Bay's freshwater tributaries to spawn.

"In the 1960s decade, as a New Hampshire natural resource enforcement officer, it was my duty to patrol this ice-bound community of often as many as 500 portable ice fishing houses, known as "shanties" to all of us local people. There were some ice anglers that came as far as a hundred miles to fish here. And many of the thousands of them supplemented their incomes by the sale of their hook-and-line smelt catches, that in the earlier days were often caught in huge nets dropped through the ice as well as caught by hook and line. Catches of a hundred pounds or more were notable, but not that rare.

"Since then, with the tremendous increase in population and the resulting dumping of untreated or partially treated sewerage (often also tied in with the towns' storm drainage systems, has had a very noticeable and negative effect on this fishery. In fact, last year's smelt run was non-existent!

"As a Great Bay shore resident, the stench of these sewerage releases was so evident it could actually stain both metal and wooden structures on the Great Bay shoreline!

"We've also seen an incredible decrease in the amount of waterfowl that used to frequent Great Bay on their migrations to the point where when flushed up by some power boats, would almost darken the sky. Currently they can be counted by the hundreds, not the thousands and several species have become very rare to this area.

"Still avid waterfowl hunters, we now travel up to hundreds of miles to hunt, rather than in our once, very productive back- yard-Great Bay.

"The shellfishing in the Bay used to be legendary. Now oysters are very rare and are often hit with different diseases that decimate the oyster beds. Clam harvesting is only allowed in very few areas where pollution counts are not deadly. Almost nobody "clams" on Great Bay anymore because of their scarcity and their pollution load.

"Anyone that doubts the harmful effects of the millions of gallons of sewerage that is released into the Great Bay watershed by the many municipalities has to have their head buried in the heavily polluted sand and muck around the shorelines."

Dick Pinney's column appears weekly in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Email him at

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