Environmental leadership, planning, and taxpayer protection

By State Sen. David Watters
Saturday, May 17, 2014

The spring season and the celebration of Earth Day remind us of the renewal that nature promises. In the spirit of hope, I believe we must plan wisely to face the challenges confronting coastal New Hampshire, including climate change, Great Bay water quality, and sustainable fisheries. Reports from state, national, and international agencies confirm what we all know — the climate is changing. Rising sea levels, increasingly severe storms, warmer winters and hotter summers are here to stay. The economic risks are great. 

The recently released New England Climate Adaptation Project Climate Change Risk Assessment for Dover shows that frequent extreme storms and 1 to 3 feet of sea level rise in downtown Dover and along Dover Point will threaten infrastructure, homes, and commercial development. New Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRM) will affect many properties. It is time for leadership so we can plan carefully now to protect taxpayers from future costs by making wise adaptations now. My work as your “saltwater” senator in Concord is dedicated to leadership on these environmental challenges and opportunities. 

My major initiative to protect taxpayers and the environment has been the establishment of the Coastal Risks and Hazards Commission, composed of representatives from municipalities, insurance underwriters, businesses, area and state agencies, and the legislature. It will provide guidance on anticipated sea level rise, coastal flooding, storm water, and related hazards. It will make recommendations for legislation, regulations, and other actions to protect New Hampshire from these hazards by planning now for adaptations that will mean enormous financial savings in the future. The Commission has made great progress over the past nine months. For example, at its April meeting in Dover, the Commission discussed the Dover Risk Assessment, the draft FEMA flood maps, and presentations on how insurance underwriters and the homebuilding industry are responding to climate change. In June and July, the Commission will release its scientific panel report on projected sea level rise and establish working groups to develop municipal and state agency responses. We must take charge of our future so we can sustain our economic base and our quality of life through prudent climate adaptation. 

Great Bay water quality is essential to our quality of life and our economic development, so communities in District 4 are committed to wastewater treatment to reduce nitrogen loads. However, when the Department of Environmental Services and the Environmental Protection Agency used a 2009 nutrient criteria study as the basis for potential licensing that would cost Dover upward of $40 million in additional funds for an unrealistic level of treatment, I knew it was time to fight for common sense and good science. I led the effort in Concord by filing Senate Bill 110 which prompted a peer review of the report. The review released on February 13 fully vindicated the Dover position, and the Supreme Court has just ruled in the city’s favor. I have worked with DES Commissioner Burack and local officials to ensure that we can now move forward with new monitoring of water quality to develop a realistic plan that will save local taxpayers tens of millions of dollars and help preserve the Great Bay. Teamwork, good science, a commitment to the environment, and effective leadership in Concord demonstrate how environmentalism and taxpayer protection can work together. 

Fisheries have been an essential part of the Great Bay and coastal economies for centuries, but we are in difficult times due to climate change and reduced fish stocks. As New Hampshire’s legislative commissioner on the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, I have worked to bring together commercial and recreational fishers and resource managers to develop sustainable catch levels. The water temperature in the Gulf of Maine has risen several degrees in the past few years which contributes to the collapse of northern shrimp and the decline of other species. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently predicted dramatic declines in fish populations in the Gulf of Maine over the next few decades. I have taken the lead in introducing legislation to protect New Hampshire fishermen now and to sustain fisheries in the future.

Environmental leadership in the Great Bay estuary requires expertise in many areas and a strong commitment to economic development and taxpayer protection. I have committed myself during three terms in the legislature to becoming your “saltwater” senator because future generations depend on forceful action today. 

Bill extension aims to help Dover's economic development 

By Andrea Bulfinch
Tuesday, May 13, 2014

DOVER — The state legislature recently passed a bill extension that provides support for a program that since 2009 has created jobs and increased the tax base by promoting economic development in 38 New Hampshire communities, including Dover.

Supported by Dover’s Sen. David Watters, Senate Bill 327 extends the availability of up to $825,000 a year in economic revitalization tax zone credits to businesses looking to join the community.

“It’s a great way of leveraging private development in an area that the city is trying to develop,” Watters said. Under the program, businesses investing in an area designated by a municipality as an economic revitalization zone can receive a tax credit applied against state business taxes.

There are several eligible zones in Dover. These include the Central Business District and Cocheco Mill renovations; an industrial park; Locust Street, Mast Road and Sixth Street.

“These districts have played an important role in Dover’s economic development and the expansion of the tax base,” Watters said. 

Economic Development Director, Dan Barufaldi, said he’s pleased Watters was able to get a five-year extension.

“They’ve been a really big help, particularly to smaller businesses,” he said.

While he declined to name the companies, Barufaldi said there are currently many businesses taking advantage of the program within those five economic revitalization zones.

“It really gets them up and running and kind of bridges them during a tight cash period while they’re trying to grow because growing takes capital,” Barufaldi said.

A new provision of the bill allows companies to carry over unclaimed tax credits from one year to the next for the duration of the five-year period, Watters said. So if a project doesn’t move along in the year tax credits were initially provided, those credits will not be lost.

“It provides continuity,” he said.

City Manager Mike Joyal said this bill promotes projects which benefit the entire community.

“It not only helps the businesses with expanding jobs, but creates opportunity for new businesses to relocate to the community and locate into these zones and be able to use these tax credits,” he said. “We’re pleased to see the extension.” 

“This legislative action means communities can plan for future economic revitalization tax zone credits under this effective and successful program,” Watters said. “I sponsored this legislation to promote job development and entrepreneurial partnerships between businesses and municipalities. I thank the bipartisan supporters of this bill.” 

Senate Bill 327 is one of several bills Watters said he has sponsored this session to support economic development by businesses and housing developers. He also co-sponsored a bill to double the business investment tax credit.

Watters bill on sex abuse prevention goes to governor: Designed to make schoolchildren statewide more aware of inappropriate touching

By Kimberley Haas
Saturday, May 3, 2014

DOVER — A Senate bill establishing a commission to study sexual abuse prevention education in New Hampshire schools is on its way to Gov. Maggie Hassan’s desk after it passed the House of Representatives this week.

SB 348 is sponsored by state Sen. David Watters, D-Dover. Watters started working on the bill after having a number of discussions with local people interested in talking about sexual abuse prevention. He learned that some school districts in New Hampshire have educational programs about sexual abuse, while others do not. 

According to supporters, the bill is aimed at making children more aware of when they are being touched inappropriately by others. The hope is that by giving elementary and secondary school children the knowledge they need to realize when something is wrong, they will report sexual abuse to the appropriate authorities and receive treatment. As it is written, the bill would not mandate that schools start teaching about sexual abuse.

Jessica Paradis of Somersworth, a mother of five sons and a member of the Somersworth School Board, is hopeful that schools will start using curricula recommended by the commission starting in the 2015-16 school year. 

Paradis testified on behalf of the bill last month. The former vice president of the Sexual Assault Support Services (SASS) board of directors is herself a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. 

“If this kind if programming had been around when I was a kid, it could have prevented my abuse from happening for years. I would have known that this wasn’t supposed to be happening to me, and that there are adults, in school and out of school that would have helped to get me out of a scary, confusing situation,” Paradis said Friday.

Paradis said SASS currently serves Rockingham and Strafford County school systems, teaching approximately 10,000 students a year about personal body safety, Internet safety and healthy relationships, but there are a total of 40,000 students in the two counties.

Paradis said there are 12 other states that provide this type of education to students. She said the bill has support from police, rape crisis centers, child advocacy groups, the Department of Health and Human Services and those in education. Paradis has been told that if SB 348 passes the House of Representatives, it would have the support of Gov. Maggie Hassan.

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