The Green River, more than just a reservoir…
It was the summer of 2008 I was in my office and a call came in on my personal phone, “I’m on my motor bike and just crossed this brook that is running full tilt and there is a class 5 rapid above a culvert and a 30’ waterfall below the culvert and whitewater for as far as I can see in the woods down river. What do you know about this creek?” The ramble was frantic, excited and curious. Very much like a kid at Christmas that just came down the steps and saw a bunch of wrapped gifts under the tree. This wasn’t the first call nor would it be the last of this kind I’d receive from Dave Packie. Once I was able to ask what road he was on, I could narrow down what waterway he was looking at. It appeared that he had just come across the Green River below the outflow of the Green River Reservoir. The flow he saw was a capacity test from the entity that owned the Dam at the reservoir…. in the middle of the summer. A whitewater release in the summer, in VT, WHAT?!?!?!?!
I walked over to the Dam Engineering Division and asked a couple of the engineers what the story was with the Dam and if there were provisions for releases on this project. I was provided the FERC license for the facility and was told flat out that there was never enough water for releases. That moment in 2008 was in earnest, the beginning of the long and arduous process that ultimately has gotten boaters scheduled releases from Morrisville Water and Light (MWL) on the Green River from their hydro project. It is now 2021 and the new FERC License and ANR 401 Water Quality Certificate has yet to be issued due to repeated appeals from MWL. However, at this point we do receive releases a few times a year on request from the boating community.
The Green had its first descent in the Fall of 2010 but a large group of high caliber boaters that were scared off of the usual suspects that day due to high flows. It was wood choked and stomping. The river wasn’t run again until the spring of 2011. I was on that mission. The wood was still present and the snow in the gorge was hellish deep to scout or portage in, but it gave boaters a good idea of the quality of the river and potential for having a releasable whitewater creek run in VT.
The next time it was run, Dave Packie, Robert Palmer (No not the 80s pop singer) and I ran it on Memorial Day. The flow was medium and the weather was perfect. We found that most of the wood was manageable and that with a little work this would be an instant VT Classic. About that time Bill and Joan Hildreth also were jazzed up about the run. At some point Bill, Dave and I contacted AW about setting up a flow study for the river which happened in the fall of 2011 and set the stage for future releases.
Times when you can paddle the Green…
- When the reservoir is full and spilling over the dam. MWL generate power and needs to get the reservoir below the top of the dam.
- When MWL is conducting a capacity test on its two turbines at the hydro facility.
- When ISO New England has a peaking day
- In the Spring when MWL has excess water coming into the reservoir
- When boaters ask for flow and MWL has water to provide
- Eventually, when the release schedule is implemented in accordance with the FERC License and when MWL time-shifts rain events to weekends for recreational releases.
River Levels – Because the flow of this river is predicated on the release from the MWL hydro project, knowing the level remotely is not possible. There are official stick gauges at the takeout bolted to the VT Route 15 bridge and another one that is upstream of the Garfield Road culvert. These gauges are synchronized. Meaning, if the flow on the up river gauge is reading 2’8” the down river gauge will eventually read 2’8” as well, once the flow/bubble gets to that point. It has been determined that once MWL turns on a turbine and the water leaves the penstock, it takes approximately 1 hour for the flow to get to the put in below Garfield Rd. and an additional 3 hours to get down to Route 15.