Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Tuesday Tying Video & Little River Flows

The big news is that we finally got some rain! The bigger news is that there is a very important meeting taking place at Thatcher Brook Elementary School this evening at 6:30 regarding future management of the dam on Waterbury Reservoir and Little River. Contrary to what the media originally blew this up to be, it's actually an informational meeting to bring the public up to speed on the re licensing process and to allow the public to comment. Here is a great bit of background info that I pulled from the MadDog TU Facebook Page ...
"The current debate over the Waterbury Reservoir is not just about the reservoir, but also the Little River below it. We believe it is possible to preserve the Waterbury Reservoir while at the same time improving the ecological health of the Little River.
Today, the federal and state governments are considering the factors for relicensing the operation of the Waterbury Dam. This of course includes how much water will be kept in the reservoir behind the dam, but part of this is how much water will be released, and at what rate, to the Little River below. While the level of the reservoir is debated, the Little River below the dam should receive equal consideration.
For decades, the reservoir height and generation of power has been at the command of Green Mountain Power. This has meant that GMP effectively controlled the health of the Little River below for its recreational users, park visitors, and local wildlife. The on-again, off-again flow of the Little River harms wildlife, particularly fish, and makes for a muddy mess. This doesn’t have to be. We can have a recreation-friendly reservoir and a healthy Little River downstream.
Anyone who has spent time on the Little River below the dam is familiar with the daily flow routine. For much of the day, the river is nothing more than a muddy trickle. Then, for several hours, the floodgates are quite literally opened and this muddy trickle becomes a raging torrent. These changes in daily flow levels are unhealthy for wildlife.
Every day, these higher flows scour the River clean, flushing out smaller fish and macroinvertebrates (the insects that fish and other wildlife feed upon). Larger fish that migrate from the warmer Winooski River into the cooler waters released from the reservoir get stranded when the water is suddenly turned off. This unstable cycle compromises the health of the Little River.
Decades ago, the Little River was a prime fishery, with even a record brown trout caught in the 1960s. Today, some say that the Little River is only a marginal fishery at best. This is no wonder considering the fluctuating water flows. The good news is that, with the right flows, the River will recover.
To get technical, just for a moment: The current “nongenerating” flow – water that runs through the dam even when its not generating power – is about 13 cubic feet per second (cfs). Much of this is from leaks in the dam. To visualize, a cubic foot is about seven and one-half gallons, so 13 cubic feet is about 97.5 gallons of water. So, it is no wonder the River is a muddy mess.
If not for the leakage of 13 cfs, GMP is only required to release 3 cfs when they are not generating power. Three. That is 22 gallons of water for the health of the River. Then, for the few hours every day that GMP apparently generates power, the released water cranks up to near 500 cfs. Thirteen to 500. This simply has to change.
Since this process began, the informed, reasonable and scientific recommendations regarding the best flows for fish habitat on the Little River varied depending on species and life stages. This varies between 80 to 150 cfs in the spring, and 60 cfs in the summer and fall. In an effort to achieve this, these recommendations include a natural run-of-river flow. While the exact numbers recommended may not be achievable, it is hopeful that something close, or as natural a flow as possible, can occur.
Recreation on the reservoir and a healthy Little River can co-exist. A stable reservoir level, one that allows swimming, boating, water skiing, and other activities, can still provide a steady, healthy flow of water for the Little River. It means that after the stable reservoir level is achieved, all the water that flows into the reservoir is then allowed to flow out into the Little River in a run-of-river fashion. This would provide for healthy wildlife habitat and begin to restore what used to be a healthy fishery.

Gary West
Central Chapter of Vermont Trout Unlimited Representing the lower Winooski Watershed

Clark Amadon
MadDog Chapter of Vermont Trout Unlimited Representing the upper Winooski Watershed"

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