M/cloudy
52°
M/cloudy
Hi 59° | Lo 42°

Damaged Norwich Pool Dam Closed for Third Consecutive Season

  • Sara Tuttle, of Norwich, left, and her mother, Rose Thompson, of Fairlee, right, pass the dam that once formed the Norwich pool after wading upstream on Tuesday, July 1, 2014. The pool remains drained this summer after the former sawmill dam was washed out by Tropical Storm Irene in 2011.<br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Sara Tuttle, of Norwich, left, and her mother, Rose Thompson, of Fairlee, right, pass the dam that once formed the Norwich pool after wading upstream on Tuesday, July 1, 2014. The pool remains drained this summer after the former sawmill dam was washed out by Tropical Storm Irene in 2011.
    (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Lifeguard floats sit unused in a shed at the Norwich pool on Tuesday, July 1, 2014, nearly three years after Tropical Storm Irene washed out the dam that created the pool on Charles Brown Brook. <br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Lifeguard floats sit unused in a shed at the Norwich pool on Tuesday, July 1, 2014, nearly three years after Tropical Storm Irene washed out the dam that created the pool on Charles Brown Brook.
    (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Sara Tuttle, of Norwich, left, and her mother, Rose Thompson, of Fairlee, right, pass the dam that once formed the Norwich pool after wading upstream on Tuesday, July 1, 2014. The pool remains drained this summer after the former sawmill dam was washed out by Tropical Storm Irene in 2011.<br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • Lifeguard floats sit unused in a shed at the Norwich pool on Tuesday, July 1, 2014, nearly three years after Tropical Storm Irene washed out the dam that created the pool on Charles Brown Brook. <br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

Norwich — As temperatures soar to 90 degrees this week, the town will go without its pool on Beaver Meadow Road for the third summer in a row.

Residents used to call the swimming hole the Norwich Pool Dam. For ten weeks each summer, wooden planks were added to the dam over Charles Brown Brook to form a swimming area, until Tropical Storm Irene washed the structure away in 2011.

The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources in June further delayed the town’s plans to rebuild the dam, expressing concerns in a letter to Norwich Town Manager Neil Fulton that the project would impede the passage of fish and erode their habitat. Fulton had speculated in April 2013 that the dam would be open this summer, but this time around he declined to predict how long the process would take.

Fulton said he remains optimistic, and that he planned to meet with agency representatives in July to hash out their differences, but a note of frustration crept into his voice as he spoke about the delays.

“Kids are calling me up and asking, ‘When will the pool be open?’ and I have to be the one that says, ‘Not this summer,’ ” Fulton said.

In its letter, the Agency of Natural Resources asked for proof that the town’s new dam could handle the water levels that breached it in 2011 and that it would not cause riverbank erosion. The agency also wanted assurance that the dam would allow fish to swim upstream, as well as conserve the temperature and water composition that they need to survive.

Yet these are all concerns that the agency has mentioned multiple times in the past.

“We thought we’d addressed most of these issues,” Fulton said.

Part of the agency’s hesitation to approve the reconstruction may stem from a statewide reluctance to build dams. A Vermont Supreme Court decision in 2001 established that any rebuilding project would be considered a new dam entirely, something that has hurt Norwich’s efforts to repair its own facilities, Fulton said.

Officials at the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources could not be reached for comment.

Meanwhile, Norwich residents are looking elsewhere for ways to cool off. Jill Kearney, Norwich’s recreation director, has been fielding questions left and right from residents.

“It’s been driving all of us a little batty. It’s 90 degrees and everyone is wondering, ‘Where is the Norwich Pool?’ ” she said.

When people ask her where to swim, Kearney recommends a number of spots, mostly out of town: Storrs Pond in Hanover, Treasure Island in Thetford and the Union Village Dam, also in Thetford. She also directs the stronger swimmers to the Connecticut River.

The Charles Brown Brook, which flows calmly through the remains of the dam it destroyed, follows Beaver Meadow Road, and can be accessed through the back of Huntley Meadows Field or by continuing down the Ballard Trail past the remnants of the pool. While Norwich residents know the brook to be shockingly cold, less confident swimmers once made frequent use of the pool, including young children. Without it, some locals have largely given up on swimming.

“Since it washed out, I really haven’t swum as much over the summer,” Dorothy Gannon, of Upper Turnpike Road, said.

Gannon called the Norwich pool the perfect spot.

“On days like the ones we’ve been having this week, that’s when I would say, ‘Go to the pool!’ ” she said.

Kearney predicted the town would eventually come to terms with the Agency of Natural Resources, though she couldn’t say when.

“We’ll wear them down through persistence,” she said.

Rob Wolfe can be reached at rwolfe@vnews.com or 603-727-3242.