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Conservation / River Access

The VPC has been active in promoting river stewardship and access to paddling resources for over 35 years.   Search the Bow and Stern archive using the term "conservation" and you will find many worthwhile projects and accomplishments that VPC members have to their credit.

In recent years the VPC has developed a strong partnership with American Whitewater (AW) and their Northeast Stewardship Director, Bob Nasdor.  This partnership as lead to a good deal of work around Vermont to secure recreational releases in reaches of rivers that otherwise would be a dry or low conservation flow river bed.  With a number of power generating Dams around the state that have their FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) license expiring, the time is ripe for providing comment and conducting studies in these watersheds to determine what kind of flows are possible and appropriate for recreational boating flows.  The following is a list of various Dams the VPC and AW have targeted and are negotiating releases on for more access to boating opportunities in Vermont.

The West River from Ball Mountain Dam through Jamaica State Park and further down stream has been the proving ground for a wide range of boaters including the site of the 1958 US National Slalom Championships.  Historically we have seen two weekends a year of two day releases and around 2002 this was cut to two 1 day releases on in the spring and one in the fall.  By 2009 it was cut to a single fall day release.  In 2014 we saw a spring two individual day releases in the summer and a full 2 day release in the fall.  This was due to the persistence of American Whitewater, FLOW, AMC, the Vermont Paddlers Club and coordination and cooperation of the Army Corps of Engineers.  With the way 2014 went, hopefully we will see even more communication with the ACoE and VT Agency of Natural Resources to sustain this great resource for New England Boaters.

The Little River from the Waterbury Reservoir has been a staple for the Vermont Paddlers Club for decades.  We utilize the Little river from below the dam to the Winooski for clinics, down river races, and most of all we utilize the releases from the Waterbury Dam to augment the flows in the Winooski below Bolton Falls for our Novice Clinics.  The Vermont boating community suffered a crushing blow this January when the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources issued their 401 Water Quality Certification, eliminating whitewater recreational releases for boating opportunities on the Little River.  For now the only way to partake in whitewater activities on the Little will be when natural flows are greater than the capacity of the new low flow turbines in the Hydropower plan and spill into the bypass channel.  Presently AW and VPC have submitted a new set of comments and requests that may mitigate the boating community’s loss.  Stay tuned for more to come over 2015.

The Missisquoi River at Sheldon Springs had multiple releases (4) in 2014, and every one of them was high quality.  A huge thank you has to go to Ray Gonda for negotiating this release back in the 1980s and an even bigger thank you goes to Bob Nasdor of American Whitewater, whom resurrected the discussions with the new facility operator/owner Enel Green Power.  The relationship that the boating community has developed with Enel and their employees is a model for others to follow.  The power company reaches out to the boating community when enough water is forecasted and they are there in the morning to tailor the levels to the boaters needs, when the water levels allow.  It’s a gem and it’s big water fun in VT.

The Green River in the Lamoille Drainage is a classic Vermont micro creek….It’s a Vermont micro creek with a Dam that can release into it to give us whitewater when other creeks are high and dry.  The VPC and AW have been working on securing releases on this stretch of whitewater for close to 5 years now, coordinating with the Hydropower facility (Morrisville Water and Light) and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to secure a number of releases on the Green.  2016 is the year that FERC and VT Agency of Natural Resources will conclude their studies and issue the operating licenses for the hydro project.  In the meantime AW and the VPC are providing comments and pertinent information to the two governmental agencies to favorably allow scheduled whitewater recreational releases for the next 40 years.

The Connecticut River at Sumner Falls (Wilder Dam) and Bellows Falls are also under review for a new 40 year FERC license as part of a larger batch of dams along the Connecticut river at Trans-Canada own and generate hydro-electric power from.  Last Summer, controlled flow studies were conducted at both Sumner Falls and Turner Falls (MA) to determine appropriate flows for boating and notification schedules.  This coming spring a study will be scheduled for Bellows Falls.  Great resources on a big river with the opportunity for several releases and playboating.

Last but not least, the Missisquoi is the first river in VT to be assigned Wild and Scenic designation in Vermont.  This designation opens the door for other rivers to be assigned Wild and Scenic status.

Mike Mainer of Hinesburg, VT is the current VPC Conservation Chairperson. If you want to become involved in the VPC on a conservation track, it would be a good idea to start with a phone call (802-318-5790) or email to Mike.

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