Tuesday, May 1, 2007

That Damn Peterson Dam

It is a shame that the Peterson Dam issue on the Lamoille River remains unresolved. Cheap power is great, but the dam is an obsolete piece of industrialization. A left over from the days before scrutiny was applied to the environmental effects of such projects. This dam is only five and a half miles from Lake Champlain and is a barrier to fish passage. By not providing a viable alternative the Public Service Board gave itself no other choice than to continue with the Peterson Dam.

The Public Service Board has shown that it is way out of step with the interests of Vermonters. It has sided with energy over environment. By not providing the funding for removal of the Peterson Dam, it has further set back the date by which historical spawning areas can return to the Lamoille River. It will take years to bring the Lake Sturgeon population back to the point of recovery.

A healthy environment is on the minds of Vermonters these days. As economical as it may be to run the dam, the costs to fish are too tremendous. According to the Burlington Free Press 12/28/06 the dam only serves 3,000 customers. Not to mention there is another dam a mile or so upstream, so what’s at stake is a critical mile or so piece of prime spawning habitat.

The Lake Sturgeon faces a very real threat to its continued existence in Lake Champlain. The benefit it’d bring to other species like Walleye and Trout would be tremendous. We spend all kinds of money to rear these fish and release them into the lake instead of letting nature do it for free.

One has to look no further than the Winooski River to find an answer. There you have run of the water hydropower at the Champlain Mill area of Winooski, followed by a larger fish obstructing dam a mile or so upstream. The operators of the mill dams use fish baskets to lift the fish over, and get them to the spawning grounds.

Why not replace the Peterson dam with run of the water hydropower for the customers, while at the same time allowing for better fish-passage? How about constructing a fish ladder since the dam is to now be left in place? How about setting up the farmers in West Milton with anaerobic digesters to create electricity from manure to replace the electricity lost by the dam? Why not begin taking steps now to ensure decommission and eventual removal at a future date? Or are we still dragging our feet in hopes of leaving the dam in place?

To me, anything would seem a plausible alternative to doing nothing.

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