by Jim Sullivan, The Daily News
The new chairman of the Merrimack River Watershed Council board and a handful of others will kayak 117 miles from the headwaters of the river in New Hampshire to the mouth at Plum Island next month to focus attention on its economic, recreational and environmental importance.
Dan Graovac, a member of the board of directors since December and its president since March, said Tuesday that membership, social media engagement and political action for the river have all increased in recent months, and he hopes the top-to-bottom kayak trip will raise the Watershed Council's profile even more.
The core quintet of paddlers on the trip Aug. 7-10 from Franklin, New Hampshire, will be Graovac, Northern Essex Community College President Lane Glenn, Haverhill Chamber of Commerce President Dougan Sherwood, Lawrence Partnership Executive Director Derek Mitchell and Merrimack Valley Magazine editor Doug Sparks.
State Rep. Jim Kelcourse, R-Amesbury, and Sen. Diana DiZoglio, D-Methuen, also said they hope to make the journey, which entails camping along the way. Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera has also expressed interest.
"We have 11 spots available and seven have been filled,” Graovac said.
He said the kayak trip is designed to raise awareness of the opportunities and challenges that come with the river.
Combined sewage overflows (commonly called CSOs) from the Lowell, Haverhill and Manchester, New Hampshire, wastewater treatment plants, among others, have become a serious concern in the Merrimack Valley and the Watershed Council is looking to find a solution.
The overflows often occur during heavy rainstorms when a treatment plant can't handle the combined volume of stormwater and sewage, prompting a release of millions of gallons of untreated sewage into the river.
“We’re trying to put a spotlight on this and hold people accountable to fix it," Graovac said. "So, let's raise awareness. Let’s let people know of the issues here and they will want to help out."