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Waterbury Reservoir’s future could be at risk

The Waterbury Reservoir’s many swimming and boating possibilities drew 42,000 people this summer to the state park. Photo by Gordon Miller/Stowe Reporter

The Waterbury Reservoir’s many swimming and boating possibilities drew 42,000 people this summer to the state park. Photo by Gordon Miller/Stowe Reporter

This article is by Miranda Orso, of the Stowe Reporter, in which it was first published Sept. 18, 2014.

There’s a real possibility that the 850-acre Waterbury Reservoir could simply go away.

An argument about how to run the flood-control dam that creates the reservoir could lead to a decision to stop filling up the reservoir for summertime use.

And the reservoir gets a ton of summertime use. It is the centerpiece of Waterbury Center State Park, which is wrapping up a record-breaking season. This summer, more than 42,000 visitors have enjoyed swimming, boating, picnicking and hiking through the park, not to mention the naturalist programs that the park enables.

The reservoir’s future revolves around a new license for Green Mountain Power’s hydropower plant at the base of the flood-control dam. The utility has operated the hydro plant since 1953, but its license lapsed nearly two decades ago. Now, the company is seeking a new license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

In addition, a permit is required from the watershed management division within the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation.

Permit questions like these involve a balancing of hydropower benefits and environmental concerns.

The state agency will look at “everything from the effects on habitats, overall water quality, water temperatures, sediment levels as well as how the water flows and what happens to water downstream,” said Jeff Crocker, a river ecologist with the watershed division.https://03a9623879a972e9a7b68ecf90d5700c.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

Those concerns also involve the effects on fish and other wildlife from raising and lowering the reservoir’s level season by season.

Now, the reservoir is drawn down to 562 feet above sea level in the winter, making room for the spring runoff that, except for the Waterbury dam, could cause flooding. The drawdown shrinks the surface area of the reservoir by 40 percent.

This is what the Waterbury Reservoir looked like for seven years after it was drained in 2000 for dam construction work. The 850-acre summer swimming and boating center all but vanished. Photo by Gordon Miller/Stowe Reporter

Once the runoff ends, the reservoir level is increased to 589 feet above sea level, creating the swimming-boating mecca at the state park.

The watershed division is concerned that the lowering and raising of water levels does not meet current water standards, said Bill Shepeluk, Waterbury’s municipal manager.

If the decision is to keep water levels low, then recreation at the reservoir would come to an end.

Shepeluk suspects state and federal officials have no idea of the furor that the reservoir debate will cause.

“This is a big issue to Waterbury residents, and people will be surprised at how passionate everyone feels about these things,” he predicted.

The community will have a chance to weigh in on the situation at a meeting tentatively scheduled for Oct. 7 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Thatcher Brook Primary School.

Competing interests

The Waterbury dam was finished in 1938 to prevent the kind of flooding that devastated Waterbury and other Vermont communities in 1927.

The dam holds back the water from the Little River, which flows south from Stowe toward the Winooski River. The Little River carries the runoff from the Stowe valley, including massive winter snowmelt from Mount Mansfield and the western side of the Worcester mountain range.

Once the reservoir was created, fish, loons and other flora and fauna made it their home.

Waterbury has already had a seven-year taste of what life would be like without the reservoir. In 2000, the reservoir was drained so construction workers could shore up the dam; the job took seven years and $24 million.

Shepeluk said Green Mountain Power tends to keep the summertime water level as close to 589 feet above sea level as possible, with a 1-foot leeway up or down. It uses that 2-foot range to generate electricity.

“These 2 feet of fluctuations don’t cause tremendous problems, but they can have a significant effect on water quality,” Shepeluk said.https://03a9623879a972e9a7b68ecf90d5700c.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

The watershed division would prefer a permit that says the reservoir depth can’t flucuate up and down, Shepeluk said. Ultimately, it would like the water level to remain low, close to the normal wintertime level, he said.

If the water level is low, Green Mountain Power can still produce electricity from the Little River’s flow. But the hydropower would be less reliable. Now, adjusting the reservoir height ensures a steady flow of water through Green Mountain Power’s turbine, but a shrunken reservoir would make the hydropower dependent on the weather — similar to the utility’s other river-run facilities across the state.

Another option is to keep the reservoir even lower, near 550 feet above sea level — a 39-foot reduction in the normal summertime depth.

In this balancing of competing interests, Shepeluk said the hydropower plant, the environment and recreation could all be losers.

“We will be looking at solutions to allow all the stakeholders to get what they want,” he said.

While Crocker wouldn’t comment in detail, he said “there’s a possibility of changes to the recreation proportions of things but the opportunity would still exist. The parks may have to be redesigned.”…

Waterbury Reservoir Risk Management Project

Waterbury Reservoir Risk Management Project

The dam at Waterbury Reservoir in Waterbury is situated on the Little River, about 2.5 miles above its confluence with the Winooski River. From Waterbury, the dam can be reached by traveling two miles west on U.S. Route 2, then right on Little River Road for three miles.

In conjunction with East Barre Dam and Wrightsville Reservoir, Waterbury Reservoir provides flood protection to the downstream communities of Duxbury, Bolton, Richmond, Williston, Jericho, Essex, Colchester, Burlington, South Burlington, and Winooski.

Construction of the project began in April 1935 and was completed in October 1938. The project consists of an earthfill dam with stone slope protection 1,845 feet long and 187 feet high; an 882-foot-long semicircular concrete conduit 10.5 feet high and 14 feet wide; two 230-foot-long steel conduits, each with a diameter of four feet six inches; a 290-foot-long steel circular conduit with a diameter of four feet; three 26.5-foot-high tainter gates, with two gates each measuring 20 feet wide and the third 35 feet wide; and a spillway cut in rock with a 154-foot-long concrete ogee weir. The weir’s crest elevation is 15.5 feet lower than the top of the dam. Waterbury Reservoir was one of four flood damage reduction projects constructed in Vermont by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s. Construction was overseen by the Corps’ North Atlantic Division. Because of accounting procedures, the construction costs of Waterbury Reservoir were not calculated separately but instead lumped together with the construction costs of East Barre Dam, Wrightsville Reservoir, and the Winooski River Local Protection Project. The construction costs of these four projects totaled $13.7 million. Following completion, Waterbury Reservoir and associated lands were turned over to the state of Vermont for operation and maintenance.

Winter Work to Occur at Two Waterbury Reservoir Public Access Areas

The present-day configuration of the dam is the result of two major modifications that allow a greater amount of water to pass through the spillway, increasing the dam’s structural integrity. The first modification, which began in September 1956, included raising the dam three feet and installing the 35-foot-wide tainter gate. This work was completed in November 1959 at a cost of $861,000. The second modification began in January 1985 and involved constructing the 290-foot-long steel conduit, rebuilding the toe of the dam, and grouting the dam’s foundation to control seepage. This work was completed in December 1985 at a cost of $4.8 million.

For most of the year, Waterbury Reservoir has a pool of 860 acres with a maximum depth of approximately 100 feet. During the winter, the pool is drained to a surface area of between 250-300 acres by the Green Mountain Power Corporation, owners of the hydroelectric power plant at the base of the dam (see below), in anticipation of spring rains and snowmelt. The flood storage area of the project, which is normally empty and utilized only to store floodwaters, totals 1,330 acres and extends approximately six miles upstream through Stowe. The project and all associated lands (including part of Mount Mansfield State Forest) cover 12,912 acres. Waterbury Reservoir can store up to nine billion gallons of water for flood control purposes. This is equivalent to 4.8 inches of water covering its drainage area of 109 square miles.

The main recreational attraction at Waterbury Reservoir is the Little River State Park, a 1,100-acre block within the larger 37,000-acre Mount Mansfield State Forest. Little River State Park has a 60-acre campground on the western shore of the reservoir containing 101 campsites (20 of these sites have lean-tos), each with its own picnic table and fireplace. There are two designated swimming areas: Area A has about 300 feet of beach situated on one side of Stevenson’s Brook Cove, and Area B, located approximately 650 feet across the cove, has about 150 feet of beach. Little River State Park also has an excellent marked trail system, with dozens of hiking trails totaling about 30 miles. During the winter, about 17 miles of trail are marked for snowmobiling, with the remainder marked for cross-country skiing. The campground has a boat ramp (located in Area A); boat rentals; hot showers; drinking water; and sanitary facilities.

History buffs take note: There are three areas of archeological and historical significance within the Little River State Park. They are:

  • The Civilian Conservation Corps campsite used by the workers constructing the dam at Waterbury Reservoir. Between 1933 and 1939 over 2,000 men lived and worked here. At one time, this self contained community featured more than 80 buildings. Although a few foundations exist, none of the buildings remain. This area is located on Little River Road, about .25 mile southwest of the dam.
  • The foundations of a farm community dating back to the late 1800s. This site is situated about 2.5 miles northwest of Stevenson’s Brook Cove.
  • Several foundations of farmhouses dating back to the late 1700s. These are located near Cotton Brook, about eight miles north of dam. Note that the final six miles of travel must be made through woods; this site is not directly accessible by car.

Another recreational area enjoyed by visitors to Waterbury Reservoir is the Waterbury Reservoir Day Use Recreation Area, a 90-acre peninsula situated on Town Highway 17 (Old River Road), about .25 mile off Route 100. This site offers picnicking on 12 tables and 10 charcoal grills; swimming on 220 feet of the beach; a concrete boat ramp; snowmobiling and cross-country skiing on unmarked trails; and sanitary facilities.

Vermont State Parks - Waterbury Reservoir Remote Sites

Three other areas offer limited recreational opportunities. The Waterbury Reservoir Boat Launch Area is located immediately behind the dam and provides boaters with an area in which to unload. The Blush Hill Recreation Area, located on Route 100 about six miles north of the dam, offers snowmobiling on marked trails. The Little River Canoe Access Area, located on Moscow Road (off Route 100) about five miles north of the dam, allows canoeists easy access to the reservoir. All of the above-mentioned recreational areas are operated and maintained by the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation, except for the Waterbury Reservoir Boat Launch Area, …

Run-Of-River New Standard For Waterbury Dam

Last week, the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation issued a water quality certification governing the future operations of Green Mountain Power’s Waterbury hydroelectric project.

The decision calls for the Waterbury Reservoir to be maintained at the current, higher summertime level year-round, and says flows should be managed to “more closely mirror the natural flow of the Little River.” However, that requirement won’t go into effect until needed work on the dam is completed.

The department’s water quality certification is part of Green Mountain Power’s federal re-licensing of its hydroelectric operation at the Waterbury Dam. And despite the fact that the decision limits the utility’s ability to manipulate river flows, Green Mountain Power applauded the state’s decision.

“We are pleased with this decision, which balances all interests, including our on-going generation of clean renewable hydropower, protecting the local environment and recreational uses,” said Josh Castonguay, GMP director of generation and renewable innovation.

draft version of the decision was issued last month, following a public hearing held in Waterbury in October. A second public hearing was held Dec. 6, drawing comments from community members and several groups that use the Waterbury Reservoir and the Little River.

Among the groups submitting written comments to the state was the Friends of the Waterbury Reservoir. That group was supportive of the draft decision stating, “Consistent with the Friends of Waterbury Reservoir’s mission, vision, and core values, and after considerable research and consultation with experts, we support the maintenance of the reservoir’s average year-round water level at so-called ‘summertime level’ of an average of 589.5 feet, with adjustments made as required and appropriate as determined by the agencies and officers who are responsible for making decisions regarding flood prevention and mitigation.”

In addition, Friends of the Waterbury Reservoir member Fred Abraham commented at the Dec. 6 public hearing, “We support the position that keeps the water levels up year-round. We believe that the main basis for doing this is the ecological integrity of … the Waterbury Reservoir  and the river basin. And we see that’s the state’s goal as well, so we’re happy to see that as their goal.”

Other groups commenting in favor of the proposed run-of-river standard included the Vermont Natural Resources Council, Friends of the Winooski River, Central Vermont Trout Unlimited, and Mad Dog Trout Unlimited.

However, some paddlers were not happy with the prospect of loosing whitewater runs. Written comments were submitted by American Whitewater  and cosigned by Vermont Paddlers Club and New England FLOW.

Bob Nasdor,  Northeast stewardship director for American Whitewater, testified at the Dec. 6 hearing that the change to flow-of-river management ignores a major recreational use of the waterway.

“We believe that you go too far in the draft water quality certification with too little basis and that the elimination of all scheduled whitewater boating opportunities is unsupported by any studies or science on the Little River,” said Nasdor.

In a press release, the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation stated its decision “ensures that dam operations are conducted in a manner that protects fishing, swimming, boating and other recreational uses of both the Waterbury Reservoir and Little River. The decision also ensures that the dam will continue to serve its primary purpose of flood control.”

The dam was built in the 1930s for flood control purposes, but has also been used for hydroelectric generation for much of its existence.

“We are pleased to be issuing a water quality certification that meets our obligations to protect water quality, while ensuring continued access for the recreational uses of the Waterbury Reservoir and the Little River that are loved by many thousands of Vermonters,” Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner David Mears said in a statement when the decision was finalized.…

The Major Benefits Of Having A Water Filtration System In Your House

How to Choose the Whole House Water Filter System for Your Home

The quality of water that we drink, wash our hair and body with, as well as that we use to clean fruits and veggies, has a huge effect on our health. Nowadays, to make sure that the water we use is clean, treatment facilities add chlorine to it, which can be damaging as it may contain harmful bacteria and chemicals that have a negative effect on our health and wellbeing.

Tap water passes through water treatment facilities, however, it can get easily contaminated the moment it leaves the treatment facilities. Therefore, the best way to make sure that the water you consume is clean and hasn’t been contaminated is by installing a water filtration system.

In this article, we will provide you with the major benefits of having a water filtration system in your house.

Safe to Drink

Installing a water filtration system will ensure that the water you drink is clean, free of contaminants, and safe to drink compared to those coming from water treatment plants without going through a home filtration system. There are many types of contaminants that can be found in water coming straight from these treatment facilities, including chlorine, lead, and fluoride.

However, you can avoid the consumption of all these toxins by installing a water filtration system in your house. That way, you and your loved ones will get your daily supply of drinking water without any health risks.

Healthy Skin

Substances that can be found in water, like chlorine and metals, can make skin conditions get worse. Moreover, children are more prone to aggravated skin conditions due to washing with water coming straight from treatment plants. For this reason, you need to make sure that you choose the right filtration system to ensure that your house is well provided with clean and pure water.

The team at wellnesswaterfiltrationsystems.com recommends that you seek the help of certified experts to assess the water in your house and help you get rid of all impurities and toxins it contains. An easy way you can validate that they are certified is by checking their website. That way, you will ensure that anyone in the house who has eczema or any other skin condition will not suffer from more damage to their skin.

Cutting Costs

Your plumbing system can get damaged by heavy metals and minerals that are found in unfiltered water. However, installing a water filtration system in your home will reduce plumbing repairs, which will result in reduced repair bills as well. Other than the pipes in your house, some home appliances can get damaged by unfiltered water, like the fridge, washing machine, and dishwasher. Repairing or replacing these appliances can cost you a lot of money! Therefore, to cut costs and reduce your monthly bills, you need a reliable home filtration system to protect your pipes and home appliances from damage.

Preserves the Environment

Drinking bottled water will add to the already huge amounts of plastic waste our planet is suffering from. Plastic is endangering the existence of many marine creatures, as it can take up to five hundred years to disintegrate! Installing a home filtration system is a huge contribution to saving the environment from more plastic waste. Although it might seem like a small contribution, it is absolutely not! The amount of plastic bottles produced and thrown away is way too much than our planet can take!

Fewer Scum Deposits

Under Sink Systems - Water Filtration Systems | The Home Depot Canada

Washing your clothes with unfiltered water that comes straight from the treatment plants can leave deposits on them over time. Moreover, if you use them to wash your clothes and dishes, it increases the number of scum build-ups sticking on your belongings that cause allergies and skin rashes. On the other hand, using filtered water to clean the floor and wash your clothes and dishes will reduce the number of scum buildups and deposits sticking to them.

There is absolutely no reason to consume or use unfiltered water as it poses risk to everyone’s health. If you think about it, filtered water is safer to drink as the filtration system removes the contaminants and toxins that it might be carrying. Filtered water can help you have better skin as well and ensures that any skin condition doesn’t get worse. Moreover, using filtered water will reduce the use of disposable plastic bottles, which is a major contribution to saving our planet. If you think that installing a filtration system is expensive, you are mistaken, as it will reduce your plumbing bills and protect your home appliances from damage. Water is life, so you need to make sure that you and your family are drinking clean and pure water.…

Water Storage: The Pros and Cons of Dams & Reservoirs

Water Goes With the Flow

When you turn on a garden hose, it doesn’t take long for the water to come out. This is because water is fluid and mobile – it likes to move! Water isn’t fond of staying in one place. Even if it seems to be motionless, there is a lot going on behind the scenes that you can’t see. Some of the surface water is evaporating into the air; some of the water at the very bottom is seeping into the ground below. And, even the water you do see is constantly moving ever so slightly.

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How and Why We Store Water

As difficult as it is to prevent water from moving, it’s a top priority in the United States for several reasons. One of the most important reasons is flood prevention. Flooding is a natural, cyclical process that carries nutrient-rich sediments over large areas, which is beneficial to human agriculture and natural ecosystems.

These floodplains not only border beautiful waterways, but also provide a water supply and very fertile soils. These factors have drawn people to riverbanks for hundreds of years, and while flooding can be beneficial, it often destroys homes and livelihoods as well.

To prevent flooding, dikes and levees have been constructed. These are raised mounds of earth along riverbanks that hold water behind them. Dikes and levees are usually made of natural materials and build upon the ground that is already present, and the size of the mound depends on the water body behind it.

But, while dikes and levees are meant to prevent flooding, they may, in fact, add fuel to the fire. The flooding of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was a result of failed levees – the water had built up so much behind the levees that once they broke, that accumulated water caused a catastrophic flooding event.

Water is also stored behind dams, which are obstructions placed along a waterway to stop the flow of water. This creates a reservoir, or a place where water is stored and prevents the water from continuing downstream. There are several benefits to damming waterways, such as flood prevention and providing a source of water for human consumption and agricultural irrigation.

Dam reservoirs also generate hydroelectric power, which is energy generated from the water turning turbine blades as it passes through the dam. Water that is stored in a reservoir can provide a steady, predictable amount of electricity that not only is inexpensive, but also doesn’t produce emissions like coal and gas do.

Though not a priority for building a water-holding structure, creating water reservoirs does provide new recreational opportunities. Lakes that are created behind dams, dikes and levees are often popular areas for fishing, boating and swimming.…

Selection of reservoir site

Types of Dams - Site Selection of Dam - Civil Engineering Notes

Before finally selecting the reservoir site following factors should be seriously considered.

  1. Catchment area should have such geological conditions that percolation and absorption losses are minimum.
  2. Available run-off should be maximum.
  3. The site should be free from fissured rocks.
  4. This will avoid possibilities of leakage when reservoir is full to capacity.
  5. The reservoir site must have adequate capacity.
  6. The reservoir basin should have a deep narrow opening in the valley so that the length of the dam may be kept minimum.
  7. Heavily silt laden tributaries should not lead their discharge to the reservoir.
  8. Suitable site for dam should be available.
  9. It will be an ideal site if dam is constructed atthe narrow and shallow part of the river which lies down stream of the deep river.
  10. It is very important point as cost of dam is often a controlling factor in selection of the reservoirs site.
  11. Site should be such that deep reservoir is formed.
  12. Deep reservoir would store more of water and expose minimum area at the surface for evaporation.
  13. If earthen dam is propose to be construct, then separate suitable site for spillway works should be available.
  14. Reservoir site should be well connecte by rail and road.
  15. Materials for the construction of dam should be available nearby.
  16. The soil formation at reservoir site should be free from harmful salts.
  17. If reservoir water is to be use for irrigation, the dam site should be near the area propose to be irrigate.
  18. This would reduce the length of the canal system and consequently the cost of the project.
  19. Reservoir should not submerge habited area or areas of fertile lands or gardens.
  20. River banks should be hard, strong and high so that cost on river training works is minimum.

Trail Run Little River State Park

Three friends who love trail running together were given the gift of the ultimate project by the Vermont State Parks Director—to trail run in as many beautiful state parks as we can, write interesting blog entries about our experiences, and take photos of our sparkling smiles while we do it. Yes, life really does get better all the time.https://mapsengine.google.com/map/embed?mid=z2N3KHkVM-Vo.k-PYWsgj838M

After several intense meetings in the middle of our cubicle maze workspace, we decided to start with Little River State Park in Waterbury.

Little River is a popular park with two camping loops and two beaches on a clear, refreshing, sandy-bottomed Waterbury Reservoir. Thousands of people spend time in their sleeping bags, in front of campfires, and paddling around the reservoir during the summer and fall. Few people dig into the miles and miles of trails full of history and natural beauty on the other side of the park.

Running trails in Little River is a journey through time. The miles of stone walls, cemeteries, cellar holes and orchards give evidence of life one hundred years ago. The pioneers cleared the fields and roads of rocks and stumps without the aid of machinery. The younger generations were not as prone to such laborious work and abandoned their farms, leaving them for the forest to reclaim. This seemed like the perfect spot to explore on our first state park trail running adventure together.

Running at Little River State Park
The gang plans their route

Jay, Steve, and I invited our friend Matt, who is training for the Vermont 100 trail race later this summer—Matt is preparing by running twice a day and running at every hour of the day. Yes, we have really fun and interesting friends. The four of us took off after work and parked at the Dalley Loop trailhead parking lot on the way to campground loop B in Little River.

You can access the whole network of trails from this starting point; we decided to make a loop starting with a section of the Hedgehog Loop Trail. We set out at about 6:00 pm, the skies were getting dark with the threat of raindrops, but none fell on us. The sky was constantly changing during our two-hour adventure, with bright spots of sunlight surprising us by sporadically illuminating the fresh green leaves, and dark purple clouds folding over each other in viewpoints along the way.http://www.youtube.com/embed/JBi5ppidm00

Of course, we had wonderful company in each other, there were lots of great jokes and storytelling, but there is so much to entertain you out there if you go on a solo adventure or if your company is not as lively as ours. There is so much history in the Little River and Cottonwood Brook basin, there are interpretive panels along many of the trails so you can stop for a snack and read about the people who used to live there (we did that) and you can enjoy Vermont natural history at its best. Some of the things we saw and heard included a pink lady slipper flower, Barred Owls making territorial calls, Ruffed Grouse drumming (and we spooked one off its roost), foam flowers, Canada mayflowers, and Veeries singing songs like waterfalls during the last few downhill miles.

You might notice something left out of that list, biting insects. I think we maybe saw one mosquito during the whole run. We even loitered in the parking lot afterward and there were no blackflies. We don’t know how long these conditions will last, but right now it’s definitely a good time to go trail running at Little River if you don’t like bug bites!

From Hedgehog Hill Trail we turned on Cotton Brook Loop Trail. This was a nice climb out of the Stephenson Brook drainage into the Cotton Brook area. The trail has the feel of an old tote road combined with a single-track because there is a narrow path through the bushy mass of several years of growth. It gives you the feeling of being in an area not heavily visited, like a secret stash of running trails.

We were trying to make a loop by turning left at the Bragg homestead to cut over to the Dalley Loop Trail, but we never saw that intersection. We overshot that and ran to a nice solid bridge over Cotton Brook. We admired that rippling stream and then turned around and ran to the Kelty Trail, which also connects to Dalley Loop.

One of the great things about trail running is the adventure, you usually do not know exactly how things will turn out but you always end up having fun and you always end up somewhere really cool. Steve packed a map to make sure we did not get completely turned around, which I recommend. You can pick up a map at the park office.

The Kelty stretch was wetter and not heavily traveled; still, it was easy footing (all the trails we ran had easy footing). Ferns were everywhere around us, everything vibrant, bright green even in the low light. Lots of ghost stories come out of this area because the hillside is dotted with house foundations from people who all moved out with the advent of the Waterbury Reservoir. Being way out in the quiet woods surrounded by signs of people who used to live there, with the skies darkening, I can understand how easy it is to get your imagination going. I am not going to lie to you, I ran very, very close to Steve during the Kelty crossover! It was so quiet and felt very spooky in there, it was very thrilling.

Once we hit the Dalley Loop, we turned right and ran the rest of the loop counter-clockwise. Our run ended with a nice smooth downhill back to the trailhead. After nine miles and two hours, we toasted with cans of Baxter Brewing Company IPA courtesy of Steve. That was a fitting conclusion to a really fun trail run with good friends.

Little River Trail Run Photo Gallery >>

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Waterbury Reservoir’s future could be at risk

The Waterbury Reservoir’s many swimming and boating possibilities drew 42,000 people this summer to the state park. Photo by Gordon Miller/Stowe Reporter

An argument about how to run the flood-control dam that creates the reservoir could lead to a decision to stop filling up the reservoir for summertime use.

And the reservoir gets a ton of summertime use. It is the centerpiece of Waterbury Center State Park, which is wrapping up a record-breaking season. This summer, more than 42,000 visitors have enjoyed swimming, boating, picnicking and hiking through the park, not to mention the naturalist programs that the park enables.

The reservoir’s future revolves around a new license for Green Mountain Power’s hydropower plant at the base of the flood-control dam. The utility has operated the hydro plant since 1953, but its license lapsed nearly two decades ago. Now, the company is seeking a new license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

In addition, a permit is required from the watershed management division within the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation.

Permit questions like these involve a balancing of hydropower benefits and environmental concerns.

The state agency will look at “everything from the effects on habitats, overall water quality, water temperatures, sediment levels as well as how the water flows and what happens to water downstream,” said Jeff Crocker, a river ecologist with the watershed division.

Those concerns also involve the effects on fish and other wildlife from raising and lowering the reservoir’s level season by season.

Now, the reservoir is drawn down to 562 feet above sea level in the winter, making room for the spring runoff that, except for the Waterbury dam, could cause flooding. The drawdown shrinks the surface area of the reservoir by 40 percent.

This is what the Waterbury Reservoir looked like for seven years after it was drained in 2000 for dam construction work. The 850-acre summer swimming and boating center all but vanished. Photo by Gordon Miller/Stowe Reporter

Once the runoff ends, the reservoir level is increased to 589 feet above sea level, creating the swimming-boating mecca at the state park.

The watershed division is concerned that the lowering and raising of water levels does not meet current water standards, said Bill Shepeluk, Waterbury’s municipal manager.

If the decision is to keep water levels low, then recreation at the reservoir would come to an end.

Shepeluk suspects state and federal officials have no idea of the furor that the reservoir debate will cause.

“This is a big issue to Waterbury residents, and people will be surprised at how passionate everyone feels about these things,” he predicted.

The community will have a chance to weigh in on the situation at a meeting tentatively scheduled for Oct. 7 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Thatcher Brook Primary School.

Competing interests

The Waterbury dam was finished in 1938 to prevent the kind of flooding that devastated Waterbury and other Vermont communities in 1927.

The dam holds back the water from the Little River, which flows south from Stowe toward the Winooski River. The Little River carries the runoff from the Stowe valley, including massive winter snowmelt from Mount Mansfield and the western side of the Worcester mountain range.

Once the reservoir was created, fish, loons and other flora and fauna made it their home.

Waterbury has already had a seven-year taste of what life would be like without the reservoir. In 2000, the reservoir was drained so construction workers could shore up the dam; the job took seven years and $24 million.

Shepeluk said Green Mountain Power tends to keep the summertime water level as close to 589 feet above sea level as possible, with a 1-foot leeway up or down. It uses that 2-foot range to generate electricity.

“These 2 feet of fluctuations don’t cause tremendous problems, but they can have a significant effect on water quality,” Shepeluk said.

The watershed division would prefer a permit that says the reservoir depth can’t flucuate up and down, Shepeluk said. Ultimately, it would like the water level to remain low, close to the normal wintertime level, he said.

If the water level is low, Green Mountain Power can still produce electricity from the Little River’s flow. But the hydropower would be less reliable. Now, adjusting the reservoir height ensures a steady flow of water through Green Mountain Power’s turbine, but a shrunken reservoir would make the hydropower dependent on the weather — similar to the utility’s other river-run facilities across the state.

Another option is to keep the reservoir even lower, near 550 feet above sea level — a 39-foot reduction in the normal summertime depth.

In this balancing of competing interests, Shepeluk said the hydropower plant, the environment and recreation could all be losers.

“We will be looking at solutions to allow all the stakeholders to get what they want,” he said.

While Crocker wouldn’t comment in detail, he said “there’s a possibility of changes to the recreation proportions of things but the opportunity would still exist. The parks may have to be redesigned.”…

Waterbury Reservoir Risk Management Project

Better amenities on the way for public at Waterbury Reservoir | Vermont  Business Magazine

The dam at Waterbury Reservoir in Waterbury is situated on the Little River, about 2.5 miles above its confluence with the Winooski River. From Waterbury, the dam can be reached by traveling two miles west on U.S. Route 2, then right on Little River Road for three miles.

In conjunction with East Barre Dam and Wrightsville Reservoir, Waterbury Reservoir provides flood protection to the downstream communities of Duxbury, Bolton, Richmond, Williston, Jericho, Essex, Colchester, Burlington, South Burlington, and Winooski.

Construction of the project began in April 1935 and was completed in October 1938. The project consists of an earthfill dam with stone slope protection 1,845 feet long and 187 feet high; an 882-foot-long semicircular concrete conduit 10.5 feet high and 14 feet wide; two 230-foot-long steel conduits, each with a diameter of four feet six inches; a 290-foot-long steel circular conduit with a diameter of four feet; three 26.5-foot-high tainter gates, with two gates each measuring 20 feet wide and the third 35 feet wide; and a spillway cut in rock with a 154-foot-long concrete ogee weir. The weir’s crest elevation is 15.5 feet lower than the top of the dam. Waterbury Reservoir was one of four flood damage reduction projects constructed in Vermont by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s. Construction was overseen by the Corps’ North Atlantic Division. Because of accounting procedures, the construction costs of Waterbury Reservoir were not calculated separately, but instead lumped together with the construction costs of East Barre Dam, Wrightsville Reservoir, and the Winooski River Local Protection Project. The construction costs of these four projects totaled $13.7 million. Following completion, Waterbury Reservoir and associated lands were turned over to the state of Vermont for operation and maintenance.

The present-day configuration of the dam is the result of two major modifications that allow a greater amount of water to pass through the spillway, increasing the dam’s structural integrity. The first modification, which began in September 1956, included raising the dam three feet and installing the 35-foot-wide tainter gate. This work was completed in November 1959 at a cost of $861,000. The second modification began in January 1985 and involved constructing the 290-foot-long steel conduit, rebuilding the toe of the dam, and grouting the dam’s foundation to control seepage. This work was completed in December 1985 at a cost of $4.8 million.

For most of the year, Waterbury Reservoir has a pool of 860 acres with a maximum depth of approximately 100 feet. During the winter, the pool is drained to a surface area of between 250-300 acres by the Green Mountain Power Corporation, owners of the hydroelectric power plant at the base of the dam (see below), in anticipation of spring rains and snowmelt. The flood storage area of the project, which is normally empty and utilized only to store floodwaters, totals 1,330 acres and extends approximately six miles upstream through Stowe. The project and all associated lands (including part of Mount Mansfield State Forest) cover 12,912 acres. Waterbury Reservoir can store up to nine billion gallons of water for flood control purposes. This is equivalent to 4.8 inches of water covering its drainage area of 109 square miles.

Swim, paddle or picnic at reservoir in Waterbury

The main recreational attraction at Waterbury Reservoir is the Little River State Park, a 1,100-acre block within the larger 37,000-acre Mount Mansfield State Forest. Little River State Park has a 60-acre campground on the western shore of the reservoir containing 101 campsites (20 of these sites have lean-tos), each with its own picnic table and fireplace. There are two designated swimming areas: Area A has about 300 feet of beach situated on one side of Stevenson’s Brook Cove, and Area B, located approximately 650 feet across the cove, has about 150 feet of beach. Little River State Park also has an excellent marked trail system, with dozens of hiking trails totaling about 30 miles. During the winter, about 17 miles of trail are marked for snowmobiling, with the remainder marked for cross-country skiing. The campground has a boat ramp (located in Area A); boat rentals; hot showers; drinking water; and sanitary facilities.

History buffs take note: There are three areas of archeological and historical significance within the Little River State Park. They are:

  • The Civilian Conservation Corps campsite used by the workers constructing the dam at Waterbury Reservoir. Between 1933 and 1939 over 2,000 men lived and worked here. At one time, this self contained community featured more than 80 buildings. Although a few foundations exist, none of the buildings remain. This area is located on Little River Road, about .25 mile southwest of the dam.
  • The foundations of a farm community dating back to the late 1800s. This site is situated about 2.5 miles northwest of Stevenson’s Brook Cove.
  • Several foundations of farmhouses dating back to the late 1700s. These are located near Cotton Brook, about eight miles north of dam. Note that the final six miles of travel must be made through woods; this site is not directly accessible by car.

Another recreational area enjoyed by visitors to Waterbury Reservoir is the Waterbury Reservoir Day Use Recreation Area, a 90-acre peninsula situated on Town Highway 17 (Old River Road), about .25 mile off Route 100. This site offers picnicking on 12 tables and 10 charcoal grills; swimming on 220 feet of beach; a concrete boat ramp; snowmobiling and cross-country skiing on unmarked trails; and sanitary facilities.

Three other areas offer limited recreational opportunities. The Waterbury Reservoir Boat Launch Area is located immediately behind the dam and provides boaters with an area in which to unload. The Blush Hill Recreation Area, located on Route 100 about six miles north of the dam, offers snowmobiling on marked trails. The Little River Canoe Access Area, located on Moscow Road (off Route 100) about five miles north of the dam, allows canoeists easy access to the reservoir. All of the above-mentioned recreational areas are operated and maintained by the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation, except for the Waterbury Reservoir Boat Launch Area, …

WATERBURY CENTER STATE PARK AND WATERBURY RESERVOIR

Lake Area:

860 acres

click for larger map of Waterbury Center State Park

Lake Max. Depth:

100 feet

Fish Species

Rainbow troutbrown troutrainbow smeltsmallmouth bassbullhead, and yellow perch.

Habitat

family fishing at Little River State Park

When the Little River was dammed, it created the Waterbury Reservoir. Little River flows into the reservoir at its north end and out of the reservoir via controlled flow at its southern end. The reservoir features clear water and a bottom consisting of a mix of sand, silt, gravel, boulders and ledge.

Quality fish habitat ranges from submerged trees and brush, to rocky points, bluff walls, gravel banks and some aquatic vegetation.

Park Fishing Tips

Waterbury Reservoir provides anglers with the opportunity to fish diverse fish-holding habitat including submerged woody cover, rocky points, bluff walls and some aquatic vegetation. Fallen trees cover a wide range of depths and will produce fish during all open water months.

A good portion of the reservoir’s shoreline consists of steep rock walls that can be very productive for smallmouth bass during the warmest months. Fish these walls with unweighted soft plastic lures and suspending jerk baits. If you are looking for a rush, get out in the early morning and enjoy a fantastic top water bite! While fishing with these tactics, anglers may also hook into some nice yellow perch, rainbow trout and brown trout.

Shoreline fishing opportunities abound at Waterbury Center State Park and via various trails around the reservoir. Wild brook trout and rainbow trout can also be found in Stevenson Brook, which flows through Little River State Park on the southern end of the reservoir.  Or you can take a canoe, kayak or motorboat to any fishing spots on your radar! 

Nearby Fishing License Dealers

You can purchase a fishing license at Parro’s Gun Shop in Waterbury, The Fly Rod Shop in Stowe, or online.

Nearby Boating Access Areas

Various boat launches are available on Waterbury Reservoir, including launching areas at Little River State ParkWaterbury Reservoir State Park, and adjacent to the Waterbury Reservoir dam.…