CRC removes dam from brook with no name

CRC removes dam from brook with no name

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DUMMERSTON — The Connecticut River Conservancy is removing part of a dam near the intersection of East-West Road and Green Mountain Camp Road.

The removal process started last Monday.

The dam blocks an unnamed brook and was originally designed to create a swimming hole. There aren't any records indicating how old the dam is, but it could date all the way back to 1939, according to Ron Rhodes, a river steward for the CRC.

The problem with the dam is that it restricts water flow, and one of the biggest issues is that it restricts the flow of sediment. The upper part of the stream has too much sediment, and the lower part has too little, Rhodes said.

"In all of these dams you have massive amounts of sediment upstream and very little sediment, or no sediment, downstream," Rhodes said. In a natural river, sediment would be distributed across the whole river system. Downstream of the dam is what Rhodes calls, "sediment starved."

Sediment affects water quality, clarity and it affects the habitat for fish. The stream is home to native brook rout, which are now blocked from part of the river. There isn't enough water flowing through the dam for fish to get upstream.

Once the CRC removes part of the dam, water will be able to stream freely. Rhodes is refraining from removing the whole structure because of historic preservation and affordability.

"These are old dams," Rhodes said. Removing only part of the structure gives the river "the environmental benefits without destroying the whole history," Rhodes said. The University of Vermont researches each dam before dam removal to learn about its history. Some people have a sentimental value toward the dam structures, Rhodes said. "It's a nice compromise, the best of both worlds," he said.

But the dam removal won't automatically fix everything. Removing the dam could have adverse environmental impacts, Rhodes said. Once a dam has been built, it often creates wetlands upstream. Removing the dam won't eliminate the wetland but it will change it, Rhodes said. It might be a lower wetland, which would dry the wetland out and change what types of plants grow. After the dam is removed, the CRC does restoration work, which can include planting trees. Rhodes intends on planting native species such as Willow and Dogwood.

"It's an impact," Rhodes said. "It's a change, but it doesn't eliminate the wetland."

Not all dams get the funding they need for removal, which is generally funded through grants and private donors. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Vermont Fish and Wildlife, Conservation Alliance, Patagonia and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation have all gifted the CRC with grants that are being used for this particular dam. All of the funding sources are tied to brook trout conservation efforts.

"If this weren't a brook trout stream it probably wouldn't have been a very good project," Rhodes said. Most dam removal is done to help fish species, he said.

Harmony Birch can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext.153. Or you can follow her @birchharmony.

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