Justices Send Lake Sunapee Boat Launch Case to Lower Court

Concord — A long-running fight over a proposed public access boat launch on New Hampshire state land near Lake Sunapee is staying in court for now.

The state Supreme Court ruled yesterday that the argument between the state Fish and Game Department, the Lake Sunapee Protective Association and the town of Newbury has to go back to superior court.

The high court found fault with a judge’s decision that said another agency that manages state lands, the New Hampshire Council on Resources and Development, lacked the authority to approve the boat launch. The judge had likened the boat launch to a new highway project, then concluded that new highway projects are outside the council’s authority.

“We disagree with this interpretation,” the court said in its opinion, reversing the judge’s ruling.

In sending back the case, the Supreme Court said the judge also has to decide on challenges to the boat launch’s design.

In a separate decision yesterday, the court also ruled against the association and the town in upholding the approval of a Department of Environmental Services permit for the boat launch.

The Fish and Game Department has been trying to build the launch since 1990. Opponents said the proposal is contrary to land conservation and public safety interests.

The 3.3-acre parcel on the shore the state’s sixth-largest lake remains an overgrown refuge for deer and other wildlife. The Fish and Game Department wants to pave over two-thirds of the property for an access road, parking and two 12-foot-wide boat ramps. The launch would be open 24 hours a day and have security lighting.

There are other public boat access points on the lake, but the department says they are either deteriorated or lack sufficient parking for boat trailers.

The association says it is concerned that the health of the lake would be threatened by the launch. The town of Newbury is opposed because of traffic and safety concerns.

The Fish and Game Department says plans for the launch include the use of porous pavement to filter and minimize storm water run-off into the lake.