August 18, 2004
Proceedings are underway at the Public Service Board (PSB) to determine the fate of the Peterson Dam in Milton. VNRC has advocated for removal of the dam in order to meet water quality standards and restore spawning habitat for fish. The PSB needs to approve a settlement agreement among various parties that would remove the dam in 20 years.
Construction of the Peterson dam was completed in 1948 and it is located 5.6 miles upstream from Lake Champlain. When it was constructed, the dam effectively created a barrier to fish movement in one of the most biologically diverse and productive rivers in Vermont – the Lamoille River.
The location of the Peterson dam has irrevocably impacted the ecological interconnections between Lake Champlain and the Lamoille. Historically, many species of fish in Lake Champlain used the reach of the Lamoille River above the Peterson dam for spawning. In particular, the dam terminated sturgeon and walleye spawning in this reach of river, and has precluded restoration of landlocked Atlantic salmon. Sturgeon are currently listed by the state as an endangered species. Thanks to VNRC and the Central Vermont Chapter of Trout Unlimited, the removal of the Peterson dam and restoration of the Lamoille River and Lake Champlain is close to becoming a reality.
In 1994, VNRC successfully challenged the license issued by the Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) to Central Vermont Public Service Corporation (CVPS) to operate the Peterson dam. After decades of negotiation following VNRC’s advocacy, VNRC, Trout Unlimited, CVPS, ANR, the Town of Milton and the Vermont Department of Public Service entered into a comprehensive settlement agreement (CSA) that calls for removal of the Peterson dam in 20 years as well as operational changes at all of the CVPS dams on the Lower Lamoille River to provide immediate benefits for aquatic habitat and water quality.
Because the CSA involves rate recovery for CVPS, it must be ratified by the state Public Service Board (PSB). The PSB must find that removing the dam is in the public interest, and VNRC believes that the significant ecological benefits resulting from dam removal are clearly in the interest of Vermonters.
There is, however, opposition to the CSA, even thougth all parties were included in– and signed– the settlement. Last year the Vermont legislature passed a law that required the PSB to hold two public hearings on the proposal to remove the Peterson dam. The law was a compromise that resulted from a House passed initiative that would have prohibited removal of the Peterson dam.
The PSB held the two public hearings this September. VNRC and Trout Unlimited rallied support for removal of the dam and, as a result, public comment at the hearing held in Milton was balanced.
If you couldn’t make the public hearings, and you support removing the dam and restoring the river, it is not too late to make your voice heard. You can e-mail comments in support of dam removal to the Public Service Board at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please indicate Peterson Dam in the subject line for the e-mail.
VNRC is hopeful that the PSB will ratify the CSA and the long battle to restore the Lower Lamoille River will be won. VNRC and other parties to the case are currently filing evidence with the PSB and evidentiary hearings are scheduled for early next year. Stay tuned.