Tri-Town Committee Makes Progress on the Dam

We have been concerned about the condition of Lake Fairlee’s dam for quite some time, and have written several posts about it.  (For example THIS POST summarizes a lot of the history of the dam)  About a year ago the Selectboards of Fairlee, Thetford, and West Fairlee met together for the first time to address the dam and other topics of mutual concern relating to the lake.  In early 2012 the Tri-Town Committee was formed, as a forum to pursue these discussions.  It was agreed that this committee would have no legislative authority, but might make recommendations for action by the towns.  See THIS PAGE for more about the committee.   The committee has been meeting monthly, and some progress has been made.

We made contact with the current owner, who gave us permission to proceed with an inspection by an independent engineering company.  In late September Bethann McCarthy, a Senior Water Resources Engineer from Gomez and Sullivan, spent about two hours with us at the dam.

The auxiliary spillway. Note the long horizontal crack below the waterline.

The water level in the lake was well below the height of the spillway.  Water was flowing through the crack (above) and pouring out from several locations on the downstream face.

Water pouring out of numerous places on the downstream side of the auxiliary spillway

Bethann climbed around and examined every visible face of the dam.

A portion of the dam is under the house.

She cautioned us that this inspection was just a first step, that planning and permitting for any significant repair or rebuild of a dam like this is a lengthy process.  Lake Fairlee’s dam is not unusual.  There are humdreds of small dams in Vermont, and many of them are in disrepair like ours.

IN late October we received their report.  For the most part it confirmed our expectations, that the dam is in poor condition and needs reconstruction or repair within a few years.  It outlines next steps, including additional studies that will be needed to obtain permits for whatever work is to be done.  Visit THIS PAGE for details about the report.

Next Steps

  • The committee is taking this in steps, not proceeding hastily.
  • We don’t have all the information yet.
  • We are gathering information to help us make reasoned and thoughtful decisions, including:
    • Engineering studies
    • Economic data about the value of the lake to the towns
    • Expert advice on how to organize a three-town response
  • It will take some time before we will be prepared to come before the towns with final recommendations.