MORGAN — The Seymour Lake Association’s (SLA) Board of directors announced that they plan to file suit this week against the State of Vermont, Agency of Natural Resources (ANR). The lawsuit is the culmination of six years of what SLA characterizes as “fruitless discussions and inaction by ANR, resulting in continued water quality degradation, property damage, and violations of an existing Vermont statute and a Vermont Supreme Court decision, both specific to water levels at Seymour Lake.”
“For years, ANR has spent countless resources to get enacted H. 526, the Shore Land Protection Bill, while they’ve turned a blind eye to the shore land and erosion problems we suffer with at Seymour Lake, all of which they are directed to fix by complying with the existing law and Supreme Court decision, Tim Buzzell, a retired engineer with over 40 years of experience in technologies related to the storage, transmission, and hydrology of water, said on Monday.
Mr. Buzzell grew up in Derby and Northfield. His family has had property on Seymour Lake for nearly a century.
“Nearly forty-five percent of the respondents of a 2013 SLA survey reported that they’ve seen erosion on their lake shore property since the new dam was installed in 2004,” Buzzell went on to say. “And in February 2014, SLA surveyed our members again and received graphic details of the erosion, property damage, and degradation of water quality they’ve witnessed since the new dam was installed.”
The existing law and Supreme Court decision direct ANR to maintain Seymour Lake water levels at what the Supreme Court ruled were the ‘natural and normal’ levels, essentially a 14” fluctuation between the high and low pins. These high and low levels were benchmarked by embedding two steel pins into rock along the lake shore.
ANR staff have made it clear that the flooding has significantly increased with the building of the new dam.
“Who better to testify to the loss of trees, bushes, beaches, and property due to flooding and the resulting erosion, than the people who live on the lake and see the damage and the diminished water quality day in and day out?” Buzzell asked. “Just last week the water level was 17” over the high pin.”
The SLA participated in the 401 Certification process for the new dam in 2004. A 401 Certificate is a tool provided by the Federal Clean Water Act that allows states to have input into the dam permitting process to ensure compliance with state water quality standards. Through the 401 Certification process, ANR agreed to the installment of a gate to maintain “normal and natural” water levels. The SLA also agreed to allow ANR to determine when that was appropriate.
The ANR are saying that those “natural and normal” water levels have been established for over 50 years, and that the ANR has chosen to ignore them.
“Our members care passionately about this lake,” said Buzzell. “It’s with considerable frustration that we find ourselves in the position of having to spend our time and money fighting ANR in order to protect our natural resources.”