GUILFORD — An old dam is out of the way thanks to a collaborative effort to clear the stream bed for fish and sediment to freely travel.
“It must have been a swimming area for about 20 to 30 years,” said Ron Rhodes, director of restoration programs at Connecticut River Conservancy.
Rhodes said the privately owned dam next to the Guilford Fairgrounds was built by a prior owner around 1960 for recreational purposes, and it was blocking fish passage and sediment transport in a wild brook trout tributary to Broad Brook, which flows into the Connecticut River. Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 damaged the dam beyond repair and the owner contacted the state, which then contacted CRC.
Wednesday happened to be a year to the date when that ball got rolling. Rhodes said the process usually takes about three years but it largely depends on size and cost.
Removal of the dam in Guilford will allow fishes to go upstream to spawn and sediment to no longer be trapped in the area. Next spring, plants and trees will be added to the site in an effort to bring it back to its natural state.
The project started Monday and is anticipated to wrap up toward the end of the weekend. Some dam removals can take a month.
The dam in Guilford was considered “pretty small” compared to others, Rhodes said. It spanned about 60-feet long and 6-feet high before the concrete was hammered out and trucked away by Mt3 Unlimited of Guilford.
About 60 truckloads of material were taken from the site, and about 54 of them contained just sediment, Rhodes said. He called trucking sediment the biggest cost.
“This can be reused,” he said, looking at a pile of sediment on site. “This is good, clean fill.”
Altogether, Rhodes estimated the project would run about $40,000. He said Trout Unlimited helped fund a design developed by Stone Environmental, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provided the largest monetary contribution to the project.
Rhodes said many times, removal of dams will result in flood resiliency and lower the flood elevation level leading to smaller flood insurance bills for property owners in an area.
CRC has taken on similar projects in Dummerston, Wilmington and elsewhere. Rhodes said the Guilford project marks the group’s 15th dam removal since 2014, many of which involve privately owned properties where the current owner did not build the structure.
“There’s about 1,000 of these old dams in Vermont that aren’t serving a purpose anymore,” he said.
CRC essentially acts as project manager in dam removal projects and finds funds to get them completed.
“I always say it’s a very giant puzzle and it’s our job to put the pieces together,” Rhodes said.
Currently, his group has about 12 dam removal projects in different stages of planning including one in Newfane. Rhodes said it seems like more and more people are interested in having dams removed.
CRC’s goal is to get these restoration projects completed at no cost to the owner.
David Sagan, private lands biologist at the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, said his group helps to execute the projects. He called the dam removal in Guilford “very straightforward” and “not complicated.”
Within 30 minutes of clearing the streambed, Sagan saw brook trout moving upstream. That demonstrates the “ecofriendly impact” he said his group is looking to achieve.
Sagan enjoys getting to help private land owners without making them pay. He said when there’s a project underway, there’s also an “internal hoorah” among the Fish & Wildlife staff.
“It’s fun and it’s rewarding,” he said, “and you get a great outcome.”