Restore a Healthy Lake Champlain: Remove the Swanton Dam
A large tributary of Lake Champlain, the Missisquoi River is interrupted by the Swanton dam. When the dam is removed, critical spawning habitat for several native fish, including Atlantic salmon, lake sturgeon, walleye, and American eel, will once again become accessible. Lake Champlain will experience a resurgence of these native fish while the natural flow of the Missisquoi River will be restored.
We consider removal of this old dam as being necessary to restore fish runs to their historic spawning grounds on the Missisquoi River below Highgate Falls, which will benefit fish and other aquatic species found in the Lake Champlain basin as well as the human community that depends on a healthy lake and river. The changing industrial activities of Man have and will continue to impact the worlds environment and species that are dependent on it. As we draw sustenance from the world around us, we believe that we should take care to return our environment to its natural condition whenever our activities no longer require the use of a resource, thus the world may be able to renew the resources that have nurtured and sustained us through the ages. We believe, therefore, that removal of the Swanton Dam being located on one of the largest and most important spawning tributaries of Lake Champlain, being a river having great historical fisheries resources, is justifiable and in the best social and economic interest of the local community and the people of the State of Vermont, and that an exploration of dam removal will reveal this. We believe that this old dam should be removed as soon as it is possible, but only ask now that you consider removal by initiating a fair and thorough assessment.
While a few vocal detractors of dam removal have opposed even considering the benefits of razing of the Swanton Dam for historical and other social reasons, we believe that Swanton has a rich history that includes the era of water powered industry as well as more poorly known history that preceded construction of any dam in Swanton. We believe that casting a wider net when considering the history of the Missisquoi River and Swanton area would provide an enriched historical perspective that could benefit the community of Swanton in social and economic ways. The future of Swanton is at least as important as its past, and we should learn whether it may be a more glorious future with the Town centered on a free- flowing river teaming with migrating fish, rather than an impoundment.
In addition, the lake sturgeon is listed as endangered in Vermont. This magnificent fish lives to 150 years of age and grows to seven feet in length and over 200 pounds. The Vermont Department of Fish & Wildlife and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have found that the lake sturgeon still spawns in the Missisquoi River on a small patch of suitable spawning habitat immediately downstream of the Swanton dam. We are confident that the exploration of dam removal would reveal an increase the available spawning habitat for lake sturgeon by more than 300 times.
Furthermore, we believe an assessment would reveal that removal of the Swanton dam would allow fish passage to muskie habitat and for runs of walleye, red horse suckers, white sucker, Atlantic salmon and other species seeking their historic spawning grounds below Highgate Falls, which has been blocked since 1790. Breeding habitat for walleye alone increases 1000 fold above the dam, according to the study conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Lake Champlain Fisheries Technical Committee Spawning Habitat Suitability for Walleye and Lake Sturgeon. A free-flowing river would be an important step towards restoration of the Lake Champlain ecosystem.
According to the Opportunities for Action Plan produced by the Lake Champlain Basin Program, anglers annually spend $205 million fishing Lake Champlain, patronizing 98 fishing-related businesses within ten miles of the lake. Restoring fish runs on the Missisquoi River could provide tremendous economic and social benefits to the people of Swanton and the State of Vermont. Exploring removal of the Swanton dam, we believe, would lead to the decisive conclusion that dam removal is in the best interest of the people of the State of Vermont, the people of the State of New York, and all others who enjoy and depend on a healthy Lake Champlain.
We strongly encourage the Village of Swanton Trustees, the Army Corp of Engineers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Vermont Dam Removal Task Force, Vermont Governor Jim Douglas, Vermont Agency of Natural Resources Secretary Jonathan Wood and Department of and Department of Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Wayne Laroche to move forward in assessing the benefits of removal of the Swanton dam inclusive of human interest and values, as well as environmental values.
Please initiate an assessment of the benefits of Swanton Dam removal today.
Thank you for your consideration.