Vermont land trust pushes for the removal of historic dam, residents fight to keep it


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BURKE, Vermont — A Vermont land trust is pushing for the removal of a dam that many residents view as historic and vital to the town's economy.

The dam in East Burke blocks the natural flow of the Passumpsic River, said Passumpsic Valley Land Trust President Leonard Gerardi. Removing the structure would "restore that connectedness of sediment transport, of woody debris, of cobbles and gravel and boulders and gravel," Gerardi told Vermont Public Radio ( ).

The dam creates a warm swimming spot for the thousands of mountain bikers who frequent the Kingdom Trails network, a relatively big draw for the Northeast Kingdom.

The water, though ideal for human wading, is too warm for native fish to swim or spawn, said Gerardi, who is also a fisheries biologist for Vermont's Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Ford Hubbard, a farmer in Burke, said the 8-decade-old dam is a landmark that has aesthetic and economic value. Hubbard is lobbying for the dam to be fixed, which he said would be easier and less expensive than removal.

"If that dam was removed the whole character of the village would change," he said.

The land trust owns the dam and has raised money for its removal, but it can't be removed without the blessing of the Army Corps of Engineers and the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation.

The department is putting off approval until the trust clarifies its plan to remove built-up sediment, which opponents worry will end up downstream and exacerbate flooding in Lyndonville.

Information from: WVPS-FM,

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