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Better amenities on the way for public at Waterbury Reservoir

Waterbury Reservoir and Dam. Photo courtesy Barry Solman ANR.
Vermont Business Magazine Eight months of work is underway to improve public access areas at the Waterbury Reservoir. The project will require temporary closures at some sites while work is underway, and will include improvements to parking lots, erosion prevention, and boat ramp upgrades. The locations include Waterbury Dam Boat Launch, Blush Hill Boat Launch and the Moscow Paddler Access. Green Mountain Power (GMP) will be doing the work as part of the company’s commitment to improving the Waterbury Dam and surrounding areas. GMP recently received a renewed license from the Federal Energy Regulation Commission to operate a hydropower generation facility at the Waterbury Dam.
The Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation says the popularity of the Waterbury Reservoir is growing. “The improvements that Green Mountain Power will make over the next 8 months could not come at a better time,”said Susan Bulmer, Northeast State Parks Regional Manager.
 “We know what a valuable community resource this waterway is and we’re glad to work with the state to make these important upgrades,” said Jason Lisai, Green Mountain Power’s Director of Generation Operations.
As part of the Green Mountain Power improvements, a parking area, river access, and anglers’ trail were recently installed along Little River Road just downstream of Waterbury Dam. The trail was constructed as a collaborative effort with the Vermont state trail crew and GMP. This river access is currently open to the public for use.
All three locations will be finished for the 2019 summer season. Long-term maintenance and management will be performed by the Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation.
Waterbury Reservoir is the ninth largest waterbody in Vermont, created in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps as a flood control project. There are two State Parks and 30 remote campsites located on its shores and many people access the reservoir for boating, wildlife viewing, swimming, camping, and fishing each year. Waterbury Reservoir is surrounded almost completely by state land, managed primarily by the Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation as part of the 44,444-acre Mount Mansfield State Forest.
Scheduled Closures:
Waterbury Dam Boat Launch
Closed: October 14 – November 8, 2018 and February 8 – February 18, 2019
Site improvements will include:
Installation of a new composting toilet
Installation of a concrete boat launch
Paving of the access road and parking area (may occur in Spring 2019 depending on weather conditions)
Erosion control and site drainage improvements
Traffic flow improvements
Blush Hill Boat Launch
Closed: November 9 – November 27, 2018 and February 19 – February 27, 2019
Site improvements will include:
Installation of a concrete boat launch
Re-grading the parking area
Guard rail installation
Erosion control and site drainage improvements
Moscow Paddler Access
Closed: November 28 – December 6, 2018
Site improvements will include:
Installation of a concrete hand carry access ramp
Re-grading the parking area
Erosion control and site drainage improvements
Source: ANR 10.15.2018 

Swim, paddle or picnic at reservoir in Waterbury

Waterbury Reservoir’s many campsites include a number accessible only by boat or trail.

August knows how to heat up in Vermont and we all need a swimming spot, not to mention a camping spot, a motor boating spot and a paddling spot. Waterbury Reservoir has it all. Free Press Reporter Molly Walsh caught up with Lucas Griggs, a park ranger at Waterbury Center State Park, Brian Aust, interpreter at Little River State Park and Terry Wendelken, park ranger at the reservoir.

BURLNGTON FREE PRESS: Waterbury Center State Park is a popular destination in the summer. What can people do there?

LUCAS GRIGGS: Waterbury offers a variety of different activities, like swimming, hiking, canoeing, kayaking, standup paddle boarding and, of course, picnicking. But, this is the first year programs are being offered here, too. Every weekend this summer park staff has organized free park-based programs for children and adults, including scavenger hunts, sand castle competitions and even a few water balloon fights. All of the upcoming park programs are listed on the events page at vtstateparks.com.

Peyton Peduzzi, 5, of St. Albans, plays on the beach at Waterbury Reservoir this week.

BFP: On a hot day the beach draws many people, including families. Is this a good place for children?

LG: Absolutely! The water is clear and clean, and has a very gradual slope, so it’s ideal for little ones. There is also a universally accessible trail that leads to a historical look out, which is about a 20-minute walk for a toddler, and has benches along the way to stop at and watch the frogs by the water. (One of my favorite things to do at the park is run up the park’s big hill with my 3-year-old and roll down the other side.)

BFP: Paddlers come to the reservoir, as do motor boaters. What sorts of rules do you ask people to follow so these different types of watercraft float along happily along together?

LG: Waterbury Center State Park gets busy with boaters of all kinds, and rules keep everybody happy and organized. The water is governed by state laws and regulations, indicating appropriate vessel course and speed. The reservoir also has clear markers indicating no wake zones and swimming areas. From the moment you arrive at the park you are guided through proper boating procedure and water etiquette. For more information about boating regulations check online at http://www.boat-ed.com/vermont/studyGuide/101049, or http://www.vtstateparks.com/pdfs/waterbury_boating.pdf

BFP: There are a number of campsites on the reservoir. How are they accessible and how far in advance do people need to book? How much does it cost?

TERRY WENDELKEN: Campsites are available at Little River State Park for standard park entrance/overnight fees, also remote camping is available first-come, first-serve for the established remote site locations. Remote sites are accessible by motorboat, kayak, or canoe. There are also sites that can be walked into.


A hill overlooking the reservoir is popular spot for picnicking and reading.

LG: You’re right, as of right now there are quite a few campsites on the water, and most of them are water access only. Campers load up their boats with themselves and all of their camping gear, and head out to find an open site on a first come first serve basis. At this point, it’s all free. These sites were established over decades by avid remote campers who understood the essentials for a great campsite. Over the next few years Vermont State Parks will be working with those campers to improve and maintain the sites for perpetuity.

BFP: What’s the water temperature right now on the reservoir?

LG: As of right now the water temperature is 78 degrees at the beach and 72 degrees farther out. Perfect for water sports.Your stories live here.Fuel your hometown passion and plug into the stories that define it.Create Account

BFP: Tell us a little bit about the history of the reservoir, when it was constructed, why and how it operates now.

BRIAN AUST: The history of the reservoir starts with the precursor to Green Mountain Power. In the late 1910s, a new power company was searching for good places to build hydroelectric dams. Herb Pike, the last owner of the vast Ricker Farm, was the first of the Little River area residents to sell his farm to the nascent power company in 1921. After several years of acquiring properties, the great November 1927 flood changed everything. A very rainy autumn led up to the Great Flood of 1927. On November 3 and 4 it rained nine inches upon a saturated landscape devoid of the vast forests that had been cleared over the previous 130 years. The runoff surged the Little River into such a powerful force that where it meets the Winooski River (along present-day U.S. 2), that it forcibly blocked the Winooski from draining downstream, pooling its waters backward and inundating the town of Waterbury under 15 feet of water. Fifty-five people were killed by flood waters along the Little and Winooski Rivers alone and over 80 died statewide. This put a temporary pause to the power company’s plans.

After surveying the area for a potential flood control dam in 1928, the onset of the Great Depression in 1929 delayed any work until the advent of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal programs. One of these, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), was requisitioned by the State of Vermont in the mid-1930s to build a variety of public works projects and state park facilities. The few remaining residents of the area were compensated for their properties which were acquired via eminent domain with the backing of the U.S. government because their road to town would be cut off by the new reservoir. The Waterbury Reservoir Dam was constructed by the CCC as part of a three-dam project to protect Vermont towns from catastrophic flooding. When regional flooding raises the level of the Winooski River to 417 feet above sea level, the dam’s steel floodgates are lowered to catch high rain waters flowing into the reservoir, which is the released over time at a safe and manageable pace. After its completion in 1938, Green Mountain Power returned to work with the existing structure toward creating the hydroelectric plant that was completed in …

Waterbury Dam Still Needs More Repair Work Done; Awaits Fed Funds

The Waterbury Dam, which was built in 1938 and repaired numerous times, most recently in 2007, needs additional work, which may be completed if it receives federal funding.

The Waterbury Dam, which was built in 1938 and repaired numerous times, most recently in 2007, needs additional work, which may be completed if it receives federal funding.

The Waterbury Dam, which was built in 1938 and repaired numerous times, most recently in 2007, needs additional work, which may be completed if it receives federal funding.

Sen. Patrick Leahy said money for repairs is included in a $20 million appropriation included in the Senate’s Energy and Water Appropriations bill, which must be approved by the full Congress and signed by the president.

Benjamin Green, an engineer for Vermont’s Dam Safety program, said a Risk Assessment must first be performed, followed by a Dam Safety Modification Report prior to final design and construction.

“The Risk Assessment, Modification Report and Design will likely take several years so it could be four to five years or more before construction begins,” he said.

Green noted that the last significant repair of the dam was in the early 2000s and was related to seepage. A partial secant cut-off wall was installed but couldn’t be completed due to technical issues.

“Six dewatering wells were also installed to pump leakage water out of the dam, he said. “During this project, and during regular test operations of the flood gates at the principal spillway, one of the gates jammed. This required temporary repairs to the gates and prompted a structural analysis of the gates, which deemed them unable to safely maintain a full flood pool. The objective of the upcoming spillway repair project is to permanently address the issues with the flood gates and spillway through repair or replacement.”

The job will be completed through a partnership between the state of Vermont, the dam owner, and the Army Corps of Engineers, who originally designed and oversaw construction of the dam and continues to provide the state with technical and funding assistance.

“We would do the Risk Assessments and other items to evaluate what needs to be done,” said Matthew Cosby, project manager of the Corps of Engineers. “We may do it in house and not contract it out, although we won’t do the actual construction.”

He said the Corps of Engineers is contracted by Congress to do construction and repairs of the Waterbury Bridge.

The Corps lowered the reservoir pool in 1981 and injected filler material in 1984 and reconstructed a portion of the toe of the dam and installed grouting in the gorge area to remediate seepage and settlement.

Vermont requested the Corps to conduct a dam safety assurance study to address conditions of the dam. The study was completed in 2000 and issued alternatives that included complete removal of the dam, constructing a new dam, reconstructing the gorge area or constructing a cutoff wall. The recommended plan called for constructing a filter shaft and monitoring structure in the gorge area to correct the seepage conditions. Construction was initiated in July 2002 and the installation of filters on the outlet conduit was completed in November 2002. Work in 2003 consisted of the initiation of construction of the secant cutoff wall and seepage control wells. Construction of the secant wall and dewatering system continued in 2004 through 2006. The Fiscal Year 2004 Appropriations Bill directed the Corps to design and construct a repair for the concrete spillway.

The spillway repair contract was awarded to Alltech Engineering in July 2005 at a cost of $693,000 and construction work was successfully completed in December 2005. The repairs were expected to extend the useful life of the spillway gates by 10 to 15 years. As part of this effort, a Design Report was prepared in 2006 for a full replacement of the spillway at a future date. The operation of the gates is restricted in part due to structural deficiencies and the flood storage pool cannot be raised to the full height as intended. The mitigation contract was awarded to Fleet Environmental in August 2005 at a price of $621,000 and work was completed in November 2006. Additional work to repair areas of the slope was performed on the mitigation site in fall 2007 and completed.

The state of Vermont allowed the reservoir to refill in September 2006. The reservoir reached normal pool at the end of October 2006 and overall construction of the seepage control measures was substantially completed in January 2007 with punch list items completed in fall 2007 and formally turned over to the state of Vermont. An 18-month performance and monitoring period followed the reservoir refill and demonstrated that the seepage control features continued to operate satisfactorily. The completed project, including the operation and maintenance of the project, was turned over to the state in September 2010.

Waterbury Dam is located on the Little River 3 mi. upstream from its junction with the Winooski River in Waterbury. The dam consists of a rolled earth embankment approximately 1,850 ft. long at its crest, 187 ft. high at its maximum section above the original river channel, and approximately 1,000 ft. wide at the maximum section. The spillway section is 261 ft. long and consists of two components. The first is a 161-ft. wide ungated concrete section with a crest elevation of 617.5 ft.

The second section is 100-ft. wide, contains three tainter gates, and has a sill elevation of 592 ft. The gates are 26.5-ft. high. Two of the gates are 20-ft. wide and were part of the original dam construction. The third is 35-ft. wide and was added in 1958 as part of a modification of the dam to satisfy updated hydrologic and hydraulic requirements.

“The Waterbury Dam and Waterbury Reservoir draw people from around Vermont and the country to appreciate our Green Mountain state,” said Leahy. “Tropical Storm Irene once again proved how crucial Waterbury Dam is to the safety and resilience of surrounding towns. I am glad the committee has supported my effort to once again provide the Army Corps of Engineers with the funds it needs to make much-needed repairs to this important piece …