Because the option was 20 percent cheaper, the state chose take the dam out, according to Brian Fitzgerald, streamflow protection coordinator for the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources. The dam, which is along the East Branch of the Batten Kill, was built in the early 1900s and was in need of repair lest it become a flood hazard.
An assessment done eight years ago looked at the cost of repair versus removal. Leaving it would also incur costs to keep it in shape. The dam is owned by the state and the removal cost, about $200,000, is being funded by a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the state capital budget.
Work has begun on the project and is expected to last a few weeks. Fitzgerald said the removal will be done in two phases. The first involves creating a new river channel - where the old one used to be before the dam was built - and draining the impoundment. The dam will then be taken out and material from it used to create a flood plain and embankments. He said the dam is made of dirt and concrete. Some rough marble was also used. That is being saved and some will be broken up and used for "riprap," which is used to armor stream banks and shorelines.
The removal is also expected to improve the river ecosystem.
"It will allow fish, mostly trout, to move up the Batten Kill above the dam," said Fitzgerald.
The state held a number of public hearings on the dam's removal. Fitzgerald said those who live near it wanted it left there. He said the place where the dam was will still be managed by the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife, and serve as a public access point to the river.
Cynthia Browning, executive director of the Batten Kill Watershed Alliance, said her organization plans to conduct habitat restoration where the dam was.
The alliance has been doing this on other stretches of the Batten Kill in recent years and has reported an increase in trout populations.
Browning said the state encourages the removal of dams that serve no function.
According to the Department of Fish and Wildlife, the dam, built by the Dufresne family, once provided water to a sawmill but was no longer being used as of 1940. The state acquired it in 1957 and has reconstructed it before. The dam is 263 feet long and 10 feet high.
Earlier this week, the Town of Bennington went to work removing the "Henry Dam" near the Henry Bridge on the Walloomsac.
Town officials said an undertow there is a safety concern, so the town road crew is removing the structure. That dam is smaller and the cost, a few thousand dollars, is being split with the Village of North Bennington.