Dam Lawsuit

Seymour Lake Association Sues State of Vermont Over Dam and Lake Levels

SLA Lawsuit against the State (Filings to the Court Below)

Since the old Seymour Lake Dam was replaced with a new structure in 2004, the lake level during spring runoff has typically been excessively high, and indeed has exceeded levels predicted in the preliminary design report prepared prior to dam construction that was used to size the dam spillway for discharge capacity.  These levels also exceed the maximum high lake level for Seymour that was enacted into law by the Vermont Legislature in 1952 and subsequently reaffirmed by the Vermont Supreme Court.

These high springtime levels have raised concerns about the effect they may be having on the health of the lake proper and of the surrounding shoreline.  Specifically, there are worries: that septic systems located in low lying areas may be compromised; that shoreline erosion may be accelerating with associated deposition of eroded materials into the lake waters; and that significant property damage is occurring to structures around the lake.

The SLA early on recognized this problem, and for six years argued with the staff of the Agency of Natural Resources Dam Division that the operable gate at the dam should be utilized during spring high flow periods to augment the spillway discharge flow in an effort to mitigate the high lake level problem.

The Agency has continued to deny our request.  Their position is that their policy is to allow the inflow and outflow from the lake to be in equilibrium – that outflow from the lake should equal inflow with no storage allowed.  This policy is commonly referred to as “True Run of River”.    SLA is totally in agreement with the Agency that a “True Run of River” policy should be maintained.  However, what the Agency personnel are neglecting to recognize is that because the dam spillway is not functioning as was predicted in the preliminary design analysis, less water is outflowing from the lake during spring runoff than is entering, and as a result, the excess water is retained as storage which is exactly what “true run of river” policy tries to avoid.  By implementing our demand that the gate be opened to augment outflow to the extent that it corresponds to lake inflow, we believe “true run of river” can be more closely achieved.

Due to the impasse SLA has had with ANR regarding this issue, after six years, the SLA Board unanimously decided that the matter is so important as relates to the damage the ANR intransigence is having on the lake environment, that a decision was made to seek compliance through a civil lawsuit to be funded by contributions from lake property owners and other concerned people.  This action was filed in the Orleans County Superior Court where the parties await the Judge’s ruling on jurisdictional issues prior to trial.

We will keep you posted.  Please see all the filings with the court for the case below.