BRATTLEBORO — Two dams in Windham County are slated for removal after the Connecticut River Watershed Council received a $199,000 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
Ron Rhodes, the North Country River Steward for the CRWC, said both the dams are privately owned. One is in Wilmington on the Cold Brook and the other is off of East West Road in Dummerston, on a tributary of the West River.
The grant, which will be supplemented by $200,000 raised by CRWC, will pay for pre-removal engineering studies, permitting and actual removal of the dams.
"The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation was created by Congress in the 1980s," said Rhodes. The foundation receives money appropriated to different federal agencies and gives that money to organizations, such as the CRWC, that find donors to match the funds. In this case, some of the funding is coming from Eversource Energy and the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation.
The seven dam removal projects will open 140 miles of cold water tributaries of the Connecticut River. They are focused on restoring river habitats for Eastern brook trout, the state fish in both New Hampshire and Vermont.
"Our river restoration work in Vermont and New Hampshire has focused on fish passage projects that benefit Brook trout and other aquatic species," stated CRWC Executive Director Andrew Fisk. "We believe removing old dams that are no longer serving a useful purpose is the best and most cost-effective way to restore the cold water tributaries of the Connecticut River."
Part of the engineering review will include how much sediment is behind the dams and how it will be removed.
"The state and the Army Corps of Engineers do not want all that sediment to go rushing downstream," said Rhodes.
The sediment might be removed by the contractor hired to take down the dam for its own use, he said. In the past, sediment has been given to the town, as has the demolished concrete, which some towns use to crush up and use for road projects.
The other dams that will be removed are on the Charles Brown Brook in Norwich, on the Ompompanoosuc River in West Fairlee and on the Passumpsic River East Burke. Two dams are also scheduled to be demolished on the Clark Brook in North Haverhill, N.H.
Dam removal not only benefits Brook trout, said Rhodes, but also the towns they are located in because the work restores the ability of the land to mitigate flooding.
"Any time we can remove an old dam, we also lower the flood elevation level and help protect infrastructure from future flooding damage," he said.
CRWC is working with a number of agencies, including the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service and Trout Unlimited, as well as the state of Vermont and New Hampshire fisheries and dam safety agencies, local towns, conservation commissions, chapters, and dam owners who have given CRWC permission to pursue the projects.
CRWC has also received grant money from the Conservation Alliance, American Rivers, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and local sources.
For more information, visit www.ctriver.org or call 413-772-2020, ext. 201.
Bob Audette can be contacted at 802-254-2311, ext. 160.