Mike Messier says after 35 years of work, he was finally able to build his dream home and raise a family on Combination Pond in Rutland.
"The reason that I live in Vermont is for a location like this," he said. "Because this is what differentiates Vermont from a lot of places you can live."
Messier says the pond is the center of the neighborhood. Fishing, swimming, ice skating, hockey-- you name it, he says it happens at the pond. But this pond may soon be gone. The water quality of Moonbrook Watershed has come under scrutiny by the EPA in the last decade. The state says stormwater runoff throughout the city is the problem, but the city says water temperature is the culprit.
"The increased water temperature is simply too hot for the types of bugs and fish to live there that the state and the feds say need to be there," Rutland City Mayor Chris Louras said.
Louras says Combination Pond is one of two bodies of water that run into the watershed. He says the still waters of the pond act as a solar panel and ultimately heat the rivers downstream.
"The problem that we see is that we believe the pond is killing the stream, and that if it isn't addressed, the stream is going to kill the city. At least from a standpoint of a regulatory or financial requirements that will be imposed on us," said Jeff Wennberg, the commissioner of Rutland Public Works.
Those financial requirements could be upward of $40 million in public and private investments. The EPA was seeking to require the city to ramp up its stormwater runoff mitigations until Rutland sued the state. A settlement on Wednesday morning will allow for a third party to reassess the cause of the pollution. But regardless, the mayor says the pond has to go.
"And we feel that putting $25 million-$40 million worth of public and private investments is a waste of money. And in order to avoid that, we will have to remove the pond," Louras said.
The settlement means the city and state will work toward transforming the manmade pond back into a stream, letting the water out slowly.
For Messier, he says he can't imagine life there without it and believes it would be a huge hit on property values.
"People that live in some of the homes up here suggest that the average home would depreciate or lose market value of $100,000 or more-- per home," he said. "And there are 70 homes that have deeded rights to use and enjoy this pond."
Messier says the neighborhood will fight to keep the pond.
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