By: Robert Nasdor
In response to of the state’s draft basin plan for southern Vermont, American Whitewater and scores of boaters pressed the state to support the expansion of releases on the West River. Restrictions by the Corps of Engineers and Agency of Natural Resources have led to the elimination of nearly all scheduled boating opportunities on the West River over the past two decades, eliminating recreation opportunity and hurting the local economy. AW and its partners have been working to restore these releases.
Historically, annual spring and fall releases from the Ball Mountain Dam in Jamaica, VT have drawn thousands of boaters for 2-day release weekends in the spring and fall. Despite the lack of any site-specific data showing that these infrequent seasonally appropriate releases were damaging to aquatic habitat, the Corps eliminated all but a single fall release day under pressure from state and federal resource agencies. The Annual West Fest was the largest annual gathering of boaters in New England, and the elimination of releases has resulted in an economic loss of $440,065 for each weekend release cancelled according to a 2005 study.
The Draft Basin Plan revises the 2008 Plan that recommends eliminating releases despite providing no data to substantiate its claims that the releases resulted in any fish standings or habitat loss from the Corps’ flood control dam. AW and its members providing comments continue to press for the restoration of responsible dam management protocols and the enhancement of recreation opportunities on the West River.