FEMA report raises concerns over Vermont dams

By  | 

BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) A recent report from FEMA found many dams in the Northeast, including Vermont and New Hampshire, need to be fixed.

It found a total of 11 Vermont dams in need of repairs. Ben Green, the Department of Environmental Conservation's chief of dam safety, says some of the dams were built more than 50 years ago, and like a lot of the state's infrastructure, need maintenance, which takes time and money.

Currently, there are 11 dams on the list, but the state says it can only focus on 10. That's because the Waterbury Dam was built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and needs federal funding to fix it.

"Those ten dams are high hazard dams that have been determined to either be in poor condition or have significant operational deficiencies," Green said.

He says none of the 10 are currently at risk of overflowing.

DEC Commissioner Emily Boedecker says there's more than $300,000 federal and state grant money to fix some of the issues and that they have a plan.

"What we're able to do at this point in time with these grant funds is to actually move ahead with what we think are the top ten dams that are most likely to need some work," Boedecker said.

The dams identified in the report include:
- Waterbury Dam
- Indian Brook Reservoir
- St. Albans North Reservoir
- Wolcott Pond
- East Long Pond
- Institute Pond
- Stiles Pond
- Thurman W. Dix Reservoir
- Silver Lake
- Lake Sadawga West Dike Dam

While the process to examine and repair dams can be lengthy, Boedecker says recently passed legislation, Act 161, allows them to move faster than they could have just one year ago.

It authorizes the DEC to mandate repairs to dams even if they're on private property. Upkeep used to be left to the property owner's discretion.

"We do need to understand that just like our water pipes, our roads, just because you built it once doesn't mean you don't have to go back and take care of it," Boedecker said.

The Federal High Hazard Potential Dam Grant is for $202,000 and the state came up with $109,000 on its own. DEC says they will cover the cost of research and assessment only.