Morrisville Water & Light Dept. hydro dams on the Lamoille and Green rivers must maintain water levels appropriate for fish in the rivers, the Vermont Supreme Court decided recently. Now the municipal utility must decide whether it can afford to operate the dams, which have long been a source of carbon-free power.
“The court on Friday upheld a decision by the state Agency of Natural Resources to require Morrisville Water & Light to operate three dams on the Lamoille and Green rivers in a way that made more water available for trout and other species.
The five justices rejected a lower environmental court’s attempt to balance the needs for better fish habitat with the power company’s desire to keep the long-standing dams economically viable.
“This is a really clear and strong decision that I think will be cited across the country,” Jon Groveman, policy and water director for the Vermont Natural Resources Council, said in an interview Monday.
Writing for the unanimous court, Associate Justice Karen Carroll made it clear that Vermont’s clean-water standards can support existing uses like hydro, but those uses “cannot be maintained in a matter that degrades water quality.”