Army Corps Investigates Middlebury River Work

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(Host) A federal agency is investigating whether towns have violated the Clean Water Act when they did excavation work in streams following Tropical Storm Irene.

The Army Corps of Engineers has notified the town of Middlebury about possible violations.

A spokesman for the Corps says the agency is looking into other cases as well.

VPR’s John Dillon has more:

(Dillon) In the days and weeks after the storm, many communities around the state hired heavy equipment operators to move rock, gravel and debris from flood ravaged rivers.

The river-work alarmed environmentalists, who said some of the dredging work damaged habitat and will make future flooding worse.

Now the Army Corps of Engineers is getting involved. The Corps has jurisdiction over dredge and fill operations under the U.S. Clean Water Act. Tim Dugan is a spokesman for the Corps’ New England district.

(Dugan) "It was brought to our attention that the city of Middlebury was doing work in the river that might not be authorized. We looked into it, and the work went beyond normal emergency repairs."

(Dillon) Dugan says officials have asked Middlebury to halt the work, and to develop a remediation plan to restore the stream.

(Dugan) "They were dredging and armoring the river bank, and this could actually cause future problems, cause future flooding. And they are cooperating with us. So we asked the city to prepare a plan and then to seek an after-the-fact permit for the work."

(Dillon) Middlebury Town Manager William Finger told the Addison Independent – which first reported the Corps investigation – that the town believes it was doing work that was authorized by the state.

Corps spokesman Dugan says the agency has heard of other problems involving gravel extraction around the state.

(Dugan) "We do know of some potential violations in the state that have to do with gravel mining and things like that. But we’re going to be looking into that at some time in the future. Right now that’s not a priority. The priority right now is to work with the people of Vermont who need our assistance in the recovery effort."

(Dillon) The state Agency of Natural Resources has also issued new guidelines covering stream alterations. Towns now need to get approval in writing from the state.

For VPR News, I’m John Dillon.

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