Londonderry proposes Williams Dam removal

LONDONDERRY, Vt. – At its meeting on March 24, 2022, the Town of Londonderry Selectboard voted unanimously to recommend to the community that the Town pursue removal of the Williams Dam, and placed on the annual Town Meeting warning an article seeking to raise $40,000 for engineering costs for the removal process.

The Williams Dam was constructed in the 1880s and is located on the West River in close proximity to VT Route 11, just east of the intersection of VT Route 100. A State of Vermont inspection from 2015 noted that the dam was in poor condition and was continuing to worsen, and recommended that the Town “retain a professional engineer qualified in dam safety to evaluate the dam and prepare plans for repair, replacement, or removal.”

In November of 2021 the Town hired the engineering firm of DuBois & King Inc. to perform the study, which was presented to the Town in final form on March 24, 2022.

Removal of the dam was previously recommended in June of 2008, when the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources issued a plan which outlined that the Williams Dam be considered for removal due to deteriorating conditions, blocking of fish passage, sediment accumulation, and potential for safety hazards.

In early March of 2022, the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservations Dam Safety program reclassified the hazard classification of the Williams Dam from “Low Hazard Potential Dam” to “Significant Hazard Potential Dam,” further emphasizing the Town’s need to act on one of the alternatives to address the condition of the dam. Because of new dam safety rules promulgated by the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, the deteriorated condition of the dam will require some action on the part of the Town and a “no-action” alternative is not feasible.

The recent DuBois & King Inc. study estimates the costs of the various alternatives as follows:

  • No action – $2,000
  • Rehabilitation – $767,000-$900,000
  • Replacement – $1,331,000
  • Removal – $425,000

The study notes that the rehabilitation alternative could receive some historic preservation grant funds. But according to staff of the Connecticut River Conservancy and the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation’s Watershed Planning Program, the removal alternative can be covered at little or no cost to the Town, as there are earmarked funds for such removal projects.

Town Administrator Shane O’Keefe said that, “The Town clearly needs to act on one of the alternatives as the dam is in very poor shape and poses a risk to the community; the option to have it removed at little or no cost to the taxpayers appears to be the most prudent and environmentally sound way forward.”

The public is invited to review the study, copies of which can be viewed at the Town Office or online at www.londonderryvt.org, and should do so to best be prepared to consider the dam removal proposal at the upcoming Town Meeting. The Town Meeting for Londonderry will be held on Saturday, April 30, 2022 at 9:30 a.m. at the Town Hall.

 

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