Council OKs Mount Washington Environmental Study; Hears Concerns About NH Electric Co-Op

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Executive Councilor Joe Kenney and Gov. Chris Sununu listen to Sarah Stewart, commissioner of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources at Wednesday's Executive Council meeting.


CONCORD – Work will begin immediately on the summit of Mount Washington to assess its environmental condition and make recommendations to minimize the negative impacts on the fragile alpine zone into the future.

The state’s Executive Council approved a $608,800 contract with Tighe & Bond, Inc. of Portsmouth to inspect and produce a final recommendation report for the 100-acre Mount Washington State Park at its meeting Wednesday.

A link to the company’s website is here

“This is really exciting,” said Sarah Stewart, commissioner of the state Department of Natural and Cultural Resources who brought the contract forward and saw it pass unanimously.

Stewart noted that the environmental study is required under the 10-year master plan for the Northeast’s highest peak which was passed by an advisory committee Oct. 22, 2023, following public comment.

Much of the comment received on the master plan focused on the need to better study the various uses at the summit, impacts from climate change and what should happen going forward to preserve it.

The legislature approved $1 million to support such a study and Stewart told the council she was pleased they were able to find a firm from seven that responded to requests for qualifications which scored the highest and was able to perform the work for the contracted amount. 

She and Parks Director Brian Wilson said after the vote that the decision will allow work to begin during the summer months as snow is often found there by October.

Stewart told the council that the department should be able to retain the remaining funds in the $1 million appropriation as things can come up during the study that may require further analysis and funds.

A meeting of the Mount Washington Advisory Committee is planned for the summit in September, but she said the firm will begin work now and an update might be available in time for the meeting.

In 2023, some members of the public testified that the summit is being loved to death with visitors coming by car, foot or train to the small state park which houses a meteorological observatory, a museum and cafeteria, equipment for radio transmission and an historic shelter known as the “Tip Top House” and also is the terminus for the Cog railway and Mount Washington Auto Road.

The contract’s scope of work which comes at the end of the 47-page contract is here 

It asks the firm to examine damage to and deterioration of the environment at 6,288 feet including groundwater, soils and analysis of options to restore alpine flora, recommend steps to be taken to meet goals in the 10-year plan and consider the anticipated consequences of climate change. It also asks the firm to look at the buildings and infrastructure, complete a visitor use survey, recommend ways to minimize negative environmental consequences and identify opportunities to make new structures in the future even less impactful on the environment.

Gov. Chris Sununu, a Republican, said he is pleased at the opportunity to get a baseline understanding of the conditions and was asked if this study could be used as a reason to limit the number of visitors to the summit, as is the case with Baxter State Park in Maine which requires reservations.

“No, it’s just the opposite,” Sununu said. “I think they are looking to expand opportunities for people to go to the top. They are looking to expand some of the infrastructure (at the Cog’s terminus) and this provides the opportunity to kind of ensure that those pieces can move forward.”

There have been proposals over the years to expand infrastructure owned by the Cog railway and others, and Sununu said this would help to make informed decisions.

He said the commission, made up of various groups that have assets and a stake in the summit, are getting along well, compared to prior years, and were able to come together to sign a 10-year master plan and that this is an important part of that plan’s implementation.

“I don’t see it as a limited factor at all,” the governor said.


State Consumer Advocate Donald Kreis was asked by Executive Councilor Joe Kenney, R-Wakefield, about Kreis’ letter to the Public Utilities Commission related to issues with the New Hampshire Electric Co-Op Board and concerns over its electricity purchasing and a culture within the board that some have alleged is sexist.

 Kreis highlighted two resignations by former Board Chair Sharon Davis and vice chair Madeline McElaney allegedly tied to sexism and a new decision on how to buy power.

Because the co-op is member-owned, it is outside of the PUC authority. They don’t get the same regulatory scrutiny that other utilities get.

But Kreis said that is predicated on a cooperative functioning board who do not have to quit.

He also raised concerns over a discussion in last Tuesday’s board meeting in which chairman William Darcy allegedly favored what’s known as spot purchases of electricity, in which electricity is bought in real time from the wholesale market.

A link to videotaped minutes of the meetings of both June 25 when the resignations were made and allegations at the annual meeting by McElaney of sexism and bullying is here

The state has given the NHEC over $50 million to expand broadband and Kenney, in whose district are many of the members, said this is an issue.

Sununu told reporters after the meeting the NHEC concerns just came forward Tuesday, “so we will take a look and if there is a path for the Public Utilities Commission to take a look at whatever the issue or concern is I am sure they will.”


Charlie Arlinghaus, commissioner of the Department of Administrative Services, told Executive Councilor Ted Gatsas, a Manchester Republican, that the state has received the entire $200,000 deposit from developer Robynne Alexander of Manchester who was unable to close on her $21.5 million deal to purchase the former Laconia State School.

The state is hoping to receive new requests for proposals to sell the property by July 18.


The council approved a sole-source contract with JABLINCOLN LLC of Epping to build a fence around the newly purchased Hampstead Hospital and Residential Treatment Facility for youths and young adults.

The Department of Health and Human Services staff said that the fence would be mostly obscured by forest land around the 100-acre property and would be a “trauma informed” infrastructure, which realizes how physical surroundings impact individuals.


Using funds from the Opioid Abatement Trust Fund as part of settlements with manufacturers, the council approved $18 million to develop and implement supportive housing for individuals with opioid use disorder. Some conceded it might be difficult to get developers to be willing to take the zero interest loans which would be repayable after the term of the loan or refinancing. The governor said the issue is more about the communities unwilling to approve such projects than the funding mechanism. 


Arlinghaus of Canterbury was appointed to another four-year term as commissioner of the Department Of Administrative Services.

Deanna E. Jurius of Meredith was chosen as the new executive director of the Office of Professional Licensure and Certification at a salary of $113,800. She is confirmed for a term ending June 29, 2028.

Executive Councilor Cinde Warmington, D-Concord, said she would abstain from the vote. She has very much enjoyed working with Jurius within the council staff but was concerned that the council did not have a public hearing on the nomination.

Kenney said not all senior positions of state government require a hearing. He said if he had gotten a lot of emails and concerns he would have called for a hearing which he said he did not.

“She has done excellent work in state government,” Kenney said.

Councilor Janet Stevens, R-Rye, said by statute there is no hearing requirement for that post.

The vote was 4-0 with one abstention.

Jason R.L. Major of Concord was confirmed as justice of the New Hampshire Circuit Court until the age of 70.

James F. Laboe of Hopkinton was confirmed to the state Board of Education on a 4-1 vote with Warmington opposed.

Haley J. DeYoung of Concord was confirmed to the State Historic Resources Council and Carl Paulsen of Dover was confirmed to the Rivers Management Advisory Committee.

Maureen Beauregard of Strafford was confirmed to the University System of New Hampshire Board of Trustees.

Nominated by the governor was Claire Rouillard of Goffstown to the Ballot Law Commission, and Christopher Dodge of New Boston to the Community College System of New Hampshire Board of Trustees.

Also nominated was Rebecca Ross of Concord as Director of Agriculture, Markets and Food.

If confirmed, Ross will serve at the annual salary of $101,490.

Amanda Noonan of Hopkinton has been nominated as director of the Division of Regulatory Support for the Department of Energy.

Two were nominated for reappointment to the Enhanced 911 Commission. They are E. Douglas Hackett of Cornish and William Wright of Belmont.

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