Deal struck to remove Peterson Dam from Lamoille River

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(Host) A power dam on the Lamoille River in Milton will be removed in 20 years under a settlement agreement announced Tuesday. Governor Howard Dean says the agreement with Central Vermont Public Service Corporation will improve the environment of the river and Lake Champlain.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) Governor Dean announced the deal in his last news conference of his 11 years as governor. He says the agreement to remove Peterson Dam represents a trade-off between low cost electricity and environmental protection.

(Dean) “But I think this is the right thing to do for the environment, the right thing to do for the people of the state of Vermont. And again it’s a balance, and we will get criticism because it’s a renewable energy resource which will go offline. But I think in the long run in this particular case, the environmental aspects of this will outweigh the benefits of the renewable power.”

(Dillon) The settlement ends years of negotiation between the state, environmental groups and Vermont’s largest power company

Peterson Dam was built in 1948. The cement structure is about 50 feet high and it plugs a gorge on the Lamoille River about six miles from Lake Champlain. Environmentalists argued that it damaged spawning grounds used by salmon, walleye and the endangered lake sturgeon. They wanted the dam removed as quickly as possible. But Central Vermont Public Service said the project is a clean source of energy for Chittenden County.

In the end, everyone compromised. While the power company will remove the dam 20 years in the future, it also promised to quickly release more water into the river to improve fish habitat. That will happen as soon as it gets a new state water quality certificate.

Environmentalists say they are thrilled that the dam will come out eventually. Elizabeth Courtney is executive director of the Vermont Natural Resources Council, a statewide environmental group.

(Courtney) “We have a date certain for removal of that dam and that is a very big win for the water quality in the lower Lamoille and Lake Champlain area.”

(Dillon) Central Vermont Public Service spokesman Steve Costello says the negotiations were difficult.

(Costello) “But no one walked away and everyone tried to keep working through it. So there is some satisfaction that it is over, that we got 20 more years of life out of this facility that many people wanted to close tomorrow.”

(Dillon) Under the agreement, the town of Milton will get payment in lieu of the property taxes for the project. However, the town clerk says the payment will not cover all the tax revenues that will be lost.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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