Anyone that has ever been to Green River Reservoir knows what a wonderful resource it is. The 653-acre reservoir includes 19 miles of shoreline, some of the longest stretches of undeveloped shoreline in Vermont. The 5,500-plus acre area with 27 campsites has been a state park since 1999. It was acquired from the Morrisville Water and Light Department in the late 1990s.
Green River Reservoir and its dam have long been an important part of the utility’s hydro-generation capacity. Hydro has been an important part of its electrical generation capacity now for over a century.
Dams owned and operated by the Morrisville utility have been in the middle of a relicensing process for the last 10 years. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission relicensing process of dams in the utility system include the dam at Green River Reservoir. The relicensing process has been a long and difficult process for all involved. The commission will not grant permits to relicense dams without the owner of the dam first getting state approval.
In Vermont that approval comes through the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, which is pushing for less use of water for power generation before it grants any of the permits needed for approval. The state has pushed to limit the winter draw down of reservoir. From the utility’s point of view this will limit its ability to generate power, making the reservoir less desirable for the utility company to maintain.
I was extremely pleased this week when the Scott Administration included $350,000 in its budget adjustment recommendation to the Legislature for the Agency of Natural Resources to complete the dam safety study. The study is a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission requirement in the permitting process before it will move ahead with relicensing.
The study is designed to assess safety of the dam given its use going into the future. The cost of this study has been at issue now for some time. With new requirements from the state in its permit process it has made the dam less valuable for power generation in the utility’s view. That in turn has made Morrisville Water and Light reluctant to pay for the study on its own.
Green River Reservoir State Park is dependent on the dam, as is any ability to generate power. State participation in the cost of the study would be a benefit and would bring us closer to relicensing. Ultimately the question of who should own the dam in future will have to be answered, but no one will want to own the dam without the study being done.
We all have a role to play in protecting Green River Reservoir for the long haul. The state park is a jewel, and we need to know the dam is safe. Having the state financially involved in the dam safety study ultimately will move the relicensing issue forward, and that is a move in the right direction.
Richard Westman, a Republican from Cambridge, represents Lamoille County in the Vermont Senate.