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LONDONDERRY — Native brook trout will soon be able to explore the full reaches of the Thompsonburg Brook.

A dam created in the 1980s to plug up the small brook and create a pond for snowmaking at Magic Mountain Ski Area was removed this week thanks to efforts of the Connecticut River Conservancy and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The concrete dam was breached a number of years ago during Tropical Storm Irene, Magic Mountain Ski Area President Geoff Hatheway said Wednesday.

But the dam still created an impediment to small trout, said Ron Rhodes, the river steward for the conservancy, which previously was known as the Connecticut River Watershed Council.

Removal of the small dam will open up 5 miles of upland stream, Thompsonburg and its tributaries such as Flood Brook, Cook Brook and the Winhall River, for trout habitat, he said. The dam itself is 2 miles from the West River in South Londonderry.

Rhodes, a South Pomfret resident, said he saw small fish on the first day of the project, and he said while the construction work in the streambed to remove the concrete wingwalls would temporarily damage the stream, it would soon recover.

Once the concrete and rebar is gone, the conservancy will return to seed and mulch the area and plant trees along the stream, which is a stone's throw from busy Route 11, down a steep embankment.

The trout will be back in late October or early November, when the water temperature hits 42 degrees, to spawn, Rhodes said. Trout like cool water in the summer, and just below the dam there are pools that are still knee-deep, he said, despite the summer drought.

But for the moment, it was a construction site. Another excavator, this one with a hoe ram, was also being used to break up the concrete, which was full of rebar.

Rhodes said a local trucking firm would haul away the concrete debris, and maybe use it as fill somewhere.

The conservancy, working with the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Agency, worked to come up with a plan to remove the concrete dam, as well as raise the money to pay for it. Rhodes said the Thompsonburg Brook dam was one of about 12 dam projects the conservancy is working on in the Vermont-New Hampshire region.

The Magic Mountain dam removal is the 14th dam the conservancy has removed since 2014, he said.

Magic Mountain ski area, like almost all Vermont ski areas, relies on ponds for water to run its snowmaking. The ski area, which is best known for its challenging terrain, can only cover 60 percent of its trails with its man-made snow.

On Tuesday, staff from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's office in Sunderland, Mass., took turns running two different excavators to remove the concrete dam, break it up into moveable pieces, and pile the concrete debris ready to be hauled away.

David Sagan, private lands biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, was training another Fish and Wildlife employee on how to use the excavator, which ultimately will keep costs down on various projects, Rhodes said.

Sagan was managing the work at the site, and was obviously pleased with the progress. "That came out easier than expected," he said.

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Rhodes said it had taken three years from idea to action to remove the dam, since first, there was fundraising and grant writing, a year for the engineering design and the permitting. DuBois and King of Randolph did the engineering.

"It's a three-year process," he said, noting the conservancy was already working on dam removal projects in Guilford, Newfane, Wilmington and on the Saxtons River in Westminster, a total of 12 projects, including a few in New Hampshire.

"Most are on land that is privately owned," he said.

The concrete dam was built immediately adjacent to an old stone foundation that likely was a small mill or another, much older dam, Rhodes said. The Vermont Division for Historic Preservation came and visited the site, and signed off on the project, with the condition that the old stone foundation remain untouched.

Historic preservation consultant Paula Sagerman of Brattleboro did a historic review of the site, he said.

On hand Tuesday morning for the beginning of the removal of the dam was retired filmmaker Vincent Hogan of Holyoke, Mass., and his wife Tracy, who are working on a documentary about the Connecticut River.

"This is a passion project," said Hogan, who lived for years in Florida before returning in the summer to his native Massachusetts.

The working title for the film is "Kwinitekw: Our Great River," using the Native American name for the river.

Rhodes said the idea for removing the dam came from Lael Will, a fisheries biologist with the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife. Will had been attending Act 250 hearings on Magic Mountain's request to expand snowmaking at the Londonderry ski area, and came across the old, unused snowmaking dam. Removal of the dam was not a condition of the new Act 250 permit, he said.

Hatheway, who purchased the small ski area in 2016 with a group of investors, said he had no idea of the history behind the abandoned dam, but judging from the age of the concrete, he estimated it dated back to the 1980s.

He said the ski area was in the process of a major expansion of its existing snowmaking pond, and he said the resort still took water from the Thompsonburg Brook.

During the summer, the brook is quite small, he said, but during the months of water withdrawal for snowmaking, it is an active stream. State water regulations control the amount of water that can be taken out of a stream, and it is keyed to the flow.

Rhodes said the work will set the stage for restoration.

"I always quote a state official who once said, 'We build the framework and Mother Nature rearranges the furniture,'" he said.

Contact Susan Smallheer at