TOWNSHEND -- Townshend Lake remains closed to swimmers due to the lingering effects of Tropical Storm Irene nearly a year ago.
But a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers official, while making no guarantees, said it’s possible that the swim area’s excessive sediment could be removed before next summer.
"Hopefully, something can be done by next season," said Dale Berkness, Townshend Lake project manager for the Engineers.
That would be good news for Townshend officials, who say the lake’s swimming area had been a big draw. Selectboard Chairwoman Hedy Harris said it would be a "relief" if a proposed dredging project happens relatively soon.
"It’s a very popular swimming place in the summer," Harris said. "There are lots of out-of-town people. Certainly, people from Brattleboro use it."
The Engineers’ Townshend Lake website still notes that the lake’s swim area includes a long, sandy beach and is "shallow enough for children yet deep enough for those wanting to swim laps."
There has been no swimming for either children or adults this year, though the ban has nothing to do with the quality of West River water.
"The water quality is fine," Berkness said. "It’s been tested several times this summer."
Instead, the problem is thick silt left behind by Irene’s flooding last August. That decreased the swim area’s depth, leaving it unusable and unsafe, Berkness
"There are a lot of new islands out there," he said.
Given that the lake’s recreation area is open only through the weekend after Labor Day, there’s no chance that any corrective project will happen this season, Berkness said.
But it is possible that swimming could return to the lake in 2013.
"We’re trying to work with the state to try and get the swim area dredged," Berkness said.
He noted that the lake remains available for other recreation.
"It’s still open for fishing, for canoeing, for kayaking," he said. "It’s just the swim area that’s closed."
In an unrelated announcement Thursday, officials from the Engineers said Townshend Dam Road will be shut for inspection from 9 a.m. to noon on Aug. 7.
Park Ranger Donna Vondle said the lake’s recreation area can be accessed via State Forest Road during that time.
Mike Faher can be reached at email@example.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.