2018-02-01 / Front Page

Cross Brothers Dam Should Be Totally Removed Selectboard Told Last Week

Brian T. Fitzpatrick who is a member of the Vermont Natural Resources Council (VNRC) appeared before the Northfield Selectboard last week. He said that he has worked seventeen years for the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) prior to his retirement in 2013. 
As Utility Commissioner Stephen Fitzhugh explained, VNRC would like to start a dialogue with the Select Board regarding the Cross Brothers Dam, which is located in the Dog River just east of the Main Street Bridge, and the reasons why it should be removed. He added the Friends of the Winooski River are working with VNRC to obtain the needed grant funds to remove this dam, which would restore the natural flow of the river, encourage fish migration, etc. Mr. Fitzhugh believes removing this dam also would have flood mitigation benefits as he feels its presence increased the impact of Tropical Storm Irene on the downtown area. There now are plans to establish a new group, the Dog River Conservancy, which would oversee any concerns with the river bisecting our community. Mr. Fitzgerald said Northfield has a history of working with ANR and VNRC to remove dams that no longer have any purpose, including one on Cox Brook Road in 2008 and another on Union Brook in 2010. He would like the Select Board to authorize starting the process on removing the Cross Brothers Dam, which he estimated should take about two to three (2-3) years. 
Selectman Ken Johnson asked if the removal process would include taking out some of the river gravel that has settled in the area. Mr. Fitzgerald said it would because otherwise the gravel would just be pushed downstream when the river’s natural flow is restored. After the river is dredged, usable gravel can be delivered to the Town Highway’s pit. Selectman Johnson did not like the results when the Union Brook dam was removed. Mr. Fitzgerald was not involved in that project, which he said had a number of problems. He said the Cross Brothers Dam removal should be much more straight-forward process. Selectman Doney asked if the river walls near Dollar General and Kenyon’s Hardware would be upgraded in the process. Mr. Fitzgerald said this would depend on the engineering study. Selectman Goodrich has learned about the amount the State of Vermont spends each year on dam maintenance and favors the removal of any unnecessary ones. Chair Goslant asked if this project could include dredging the riverbed upstream of the dam as far as Union Brook. The riverbed there has a large amount of built-up gravel, etc. Mr. Fitzgerald said this would be part of the initial study and would be done if thought appropriate. Chair Goslant thinks this project would improve fishing and swimming opportunities along the Dog River and favors it for these reasons. 
Manager Jeffrey Schulz asked about the timeline for this project. Mr. Fitzgerald said a window for grant applications would open in about three months. There had been a potential grant opportunity closing next week but those funds were allocated elsewhere. Since the municipality owns the dam, the Select Board would need to approve a letter of commitment before the project can go forward. Selectman Doney asked if the dam removal would cost the municipality anything. Mr. Fitzgerald said there would be no local match costs during the engineering phase. There might be some in-kind services required during the actual dam removal. Motion by Selectman Doney, seconded by Selectman Johnson, to authorize Manager Schulz to draft a letter of commitment for the Cross Brothers Dam Removal project.
Town Manager Jeffrey Schulz noted the Select Board discussed selling the municipality’s street sweeper at a recent budget meeting. The plan is to contract the street sweeping to a private contractor who would come in twice a year (spring and fall). Before he proceeds with any potential sale, Manager Schulz would like the Select Board’s formal authorization to proceed. There was no objection. Chair Goslant hopes the $15,000 estimated sale price can be used to offset any budget increases for highway paving and sidewalk restoration.
Main Street Bridge Replacement. Manager Schulz has been working with Dan Currier from the Central Vermont Regional Planning Commission (CVRPC) on starting the process to replace the Main Street Bridge, which the State acknowledges is in poor condition. The bridge now is rated as the one most needing replacement in the Central Vermont region. However, we still are looking at two (2) to three (3) years before the bridge actually is replaced. 
Manager Schulz said Mr. Currier will be attending the next Select Board regular meeting on February 13 regarding a received grant that will pay for the installation of a new stormwater basin on Union Street. The $175,000 project cost will be entirely covered by the grant with no local match. With the assistance of CVRPC, the municipality has received over $300,000 in grant funds for stormwater projects over the past three (3) years. As a result, Northfield appears to be far ahead of most other Vermont communities in preparing for future compliance with upcoming (and more stringent) ANR stormwater mandates. Selectman Johnson asked when this project would begin. Manager Schulz said in July 2018. Most of the work will be outside the road and the Highway Department will be coordinating their own installation of a new waterline in the area with this project. 
Manager Schulz said that he has been contacted by the owner-operators of the proposed solar farm. The first step in getting the solar farm operational is upgrading the power lines to the site and this will take place in the next couple months. 

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