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Thursday, May 10, 2012

State officials to perambulate the border between N.H. and Vermont (symbolically, that is)

The unusual border between New Hampshire and Vermont along the Connecticut River – it lies at the low-water mark on the Vermont side rather than in the middle of the river, as is usually the case when a river separates two states – will be legally confirmed Monday, May 14, when the two states’ attorney generals meet to “perambulate” the border.

Under both New Hampshire and Vermont law, the Attorneys General are required to meet and perambulate, or walk along, the border between their respective states once every seven years to assure that all markers and monuments of the boundary between the states are properly renewed and maintained.

The perambulation laws, passed by both states in 1935, ended years of litigation over the boundary line.

The border dispute started in 1917 when New Hampshire officials attempted to tax a paper mill that was located partially in the riverbed of the Connecticut River, adjacent to Bellows Falls, Vt. Vermont claimed that its border extended to the center of the river.

Some eighteen years later, the dispute was finally resolved when a Special Master appointed by the United States Supreme Court ruled that the boundary was the low-water mark on the Vermont side of the river – meaning that New Hampshire “owns” the entire Connecticut River between the two states.

This year marks the 11th time that the states have perambulated the border.

Perambulating borders is also a legal requirement for New Hampshire towns, even though it is rarely done these days.

State law (RSA 51:1-9) says selectmen or their designated replacement should perambulate town borders once every seven years, to ward off possible disputes over its location. There is no penalty for not complying, however, and a 2010 by the New Hampshire Municipal Association found that only 14 percent of the towns that responded - and only 44 percent of the state’s 234 municipalities responded – had perambulated their entire borders within the past seven years.

Monday’s event with state officials is symbolic; they won’t walk the entire 150-mile length of the border. Instead, there will be a ceremony at the survey marker in the sidewalk on the northwest corner (near the Vermont shore) of the Norwich/Hanover bridge.

– Telegraph staff