Swanton Dam Threatens Endangered Fish; State May Step In

Sep 16, 2015

State officials are threatening enforcement action against the Village of Swanton over a municipal dam that is in such disrepair that it’s threatening the habitat of an endangered species of fish.

Rod Wentworth, a fisheries scientist for the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife, wrote a letter to Swanton Village Manager Reginald Beliveau saying the village could face fines if it doesn’t fix the broken Lower Swanton Dam. The dam caused a fish kill in 2012, and Wentworth warned of the risk of another one happening this year.

“In August, 2012 natural flows dropped to very low levels and as a result, water stopped spilling over the dam crest and instead routed through the sluice gate at the left end of the dam (looking downstream),” the letter said. “This resulting in the dewatering of key habitat areas downstream of the dam and a number of species of fish were killed (stonecat, tessellated darter, logperch, fallfish, largemouth bass, rock bass).”

Wentworth added that the stonecat is a “state-listed endangered species.” He said the state Agency of Natural Resources has the legal authority “to bring an enforcement when a state threatened or endangered species is killed or injured as a result of the actions or failure to act of any person.”

Wentworth said a failure to act to fix the broken sluice gate could lead to penalties against the village.

“River flows have again receded to low levels and if we experienced more dry weather, a repeat of what happened in 2012 may occur,” Wentworth wrote to Beliveau. “I hope we both want to avoid that.”

Beliveau did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

The Lower Swanton Dam has been the subject of controversy in the community for years, with environmentalists arguing that removing the dam would help local ecosystems and some local residents saying it is an important part of the village’s history, as Seven Days reported last year.