By Rachel Goff
Last month, Warren residents attended a state meeting on low-impact hydro screening that gave them hope that they might be able to restore the village's timber crib dam, after all.
For years, the Warren Village Dam Preservation Trust had been trying to get a permit to repair the once-working 200-year-old structure, but "we're at the point where we're going to give up," chair Mac Rood told the Warren Select Board last summer, explaining that the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) had told him "on no uncertain terms" that they wouldn't receive it.
Since last summer, however, "it seems like [the ANR] has switched gears," Eric Brattstrom said, as it's now helping people negotiate some of the red tape surrounding hydropower projects. Brattstrom, who serves as co-chair of the Warren Energy Committee, attended the state meeting on low-impact hydro screening, which the ANR, the Vermont Public Service Department and the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community development designed to assist developers while at the same time protecting natural and historic resources.
In other words, "the idea was to give people that had some interest in hydropower a set of standards for projects that—if met—they would have no problem getting through the ANR," Brattstrom explained. And, according to Brattstrom, Warren's timber crib dam meets all of the ANR's low-impact standards.
Now, a restoration effort that only a year ago seemed impossible appears entirely feasible, and a newly reformed working group headed by Warren resident Dave Sellers will move forward by submitting documentation that the village's timber crib dam is the type of hydropower project that the ANR says they'll support.
If given the go-ahead from the state, the group will work on applying for grants that can pay for repairs to the 200-year-old dam, which is in need of a new turbine and housing unit. If repaired, the dam will have a 100kW capability and will be tied into the grid, making the effort worthwhile from a renewable energy standpoint, Brattstrom said.
Originally, the Warren Village Dam Preservation Trust's efforts to restore the dam were based largely on aesthetics, as the structure has become an almost iconic image of downtown and was deteriorating, Brattstrom explained, "but then it evolved into why can't we make it work because it did work at one time," he said.