Nature Conservancy Releases Results of Lake Champlain Basin Dam Study

Montpelier, VT, April 4, 2017—The Nature Conservancy has published the results of its Dam Screening Tool for the Lake Champlain Basin. The Dam Screening Tool assessed four-hundred dams and categorized them into five tiers based on the significance of their ecological impacts on Vermont’s waterways, such as blocked fish passage and fragmentation of river ecosystems.

The Vermont Dam Screening Tool was designed to assist watershed managers and aquatic biologists in their efforts to strategically reconnect fragmented aquatic habitats. The Peterson Dam in Milton and the Swanton Dam in Swanton were identified as having the greatest impacts on Vermont’s waterways and therefore, received the highest ranking of all 400 dams assessed.

Both the Peterson and Swanton dam block fish species such as landlocked Atlantic salmon and endangered lake sturgeon that are the focus of considerable state and federal recovery efforts. Several other lake-dwelling fish that spawn in rivers would also benefit from the removal of these dams.


This project allows community stakeholders and water resource managers to have accurate, science-based, ecological impact data, to best inform any dialogue about the cost benefits of dam infrastructure on our waterways. “We have over 1,000 dams in Vermont. While many of these dams no longer serve a useful purpose for people and communities, each dam needs to be assessed on its merits for benefits as well as impacts. This science will allow us to have honest conversations about the value of these structures in our waterways and the benefits of removal such as reconnected waterways for recreation and thriving fish populations,” said Heather Furman, state director of The Nature Conservancy. The results of the Dam Screening Tool can be found on in the form of a spreadsheet and web-based map. Field work and direct knowledge of the landscape are needed for final verification and cost benefit analysis. The Dam Screening Tool and its results were completed with funding from the Lintilhac Foundation, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Vermont Natural Resources Council. The work was informed by an advisory committee, which includes representatives from our funding partners as well as the following organizations: Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation.

Thank you, Ron