City leaders say rising water slowing at Wrightsville Dam in Montpelier

Published: Jul. 11, 2023 at 7:00 AM EDT|Updated: Jul. 11, 2023 at 7:24 PM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - The city of Montpelier is still watching the Wrightsville Dam but says the water is rising much more slowly now.

City Manager William Fraser had warned overnight that the dam had surpassed Tropical Storm Irene levels and was nearing capacity.

But we’re now told the water is not rising as quickly as before and is not expected to go up much more at all.

Tuesday morning, Andrew Sampsell, a dam safety engineer with the Vermont Dam Safety Program, was at the dam monitoring the level. He said the dam is working as intended.

“It’s going to function as it was designed if it was to go over the spillway. I think the concern here with the water level going over the spillway is you’re going to have more discharge downstream toward the North Branch of the Winooski River and Montpelier, so giving people advance notice of when that’s going to happen is sort of important and that’s why I’m out here to monitor the level,” Sampsell said.

City leaders now say only minimal increases are expected, though the dam will be monitored throughout the night.

Had the dam gone into the spillway, it would have been the first time that happened since the dam was built in 1927, so there is no precedent for potential damage.

Meanwhile, downtown Montpelier remained underwater Tuesday evening.

Floodwaters covered parts of the city all afternoon, though people were starting to be able to move about more freely later in the day and it appeared the river was starting to go down, but it was definitely still rushing.

We ran into a family on a college tour who got stuck in Montpelier and finally got a new rental car to leave.

“Unfortunately ran into a once-in-a-hundred-year event. But we are grateful to the emergency services and especially the facilities managers here at the Capitol Plaza. They were terrific in terms of supporting all their guests and folks were just willing to pitch in and help those in need for emergency services,” said Glenn Hernandez of Virginia.

Those visitors said they even saw outside agencies from New York supporting the emergency crews.

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