Eaton Dams removal design project

The WRP is working with partners to complete a design to remove the Upper & Lower Eaton Dams on the First Branch of the White River in Royalton.

Upper Eaton Dam

View upstream from Mill Village in 1913: Lower Dam, Factory, Covered Bridge, and Upper Dam (Royalton Historical Society)

The Upper Eaton Dam is located immediately upstream of Royalton’s Mill Road bridge.

Originally built from logs, the dam was rebuilt in 1924 using concrete. The dam was damaged in the 1927 flood, and was not rebuilt.

This dam provided power for the “factory” building that was built in 1882. Before it burned in 1968, the factory was used to make finished lumber, shoes, and small wood parts like drum hoops, hockey sticks, step stools, and clothes pins.

Lower Eaton Dam

The Lower Eaton Dam is located downstream of the Mill Road bridge and immediately upstream of the Mill Village complex.

Originally built from logs in 1776, this dam was rebuilt in the 1920s using concrete. The dam was damaged in the 1927 flood, and was rebuilt in 1943.

This dam provided power for the Mill Village businesses, including a grist mill, saw mill, carding machines and fulling mill, and blacksmith shop. Manufacturing at the Mill Village declined after the railroad was built and South Royalton village became the commerce center in town around the 1870s. The saw mill was in operation until 1970.

Why remove dams?

There are over 1,000 dams located on Vermont’s rivers and streams that serve no useful purpose: originally built to provide a source of power for manufacturing and other private and public uses, these “deadbeat” dams have been abandoned and most have fallen into disrepair.

However many of these dams still span the river channels they were built to harness. So they are blocking the movement of water, sediment, and aquatic life.

Removing these dams restores connectivity to a river system:

  • Clean water: Sediments trapped behind a dam can contain high levels of pollutants. Removing a dam allows sediments to move through the system, improving water quality.
  • Fish movement: Vermont’s native fish need to move upstream to find food, to lay their eggs, and to seek cold water during the hot summer months. Removing a dam allows fish and other aquatic life to move freely between upstream and downstream habitats.
  • Fewer flood damages: Dams elevate water levels and may cause localized flooding during rain events. Removing a dam returns water levels to normal elevations and may reduce damages associated with localized flooding.

The Upper & Lower Eaton Dams are “deadbeat” dams – they no longer serve a useful purpose, and are in disrepair.  Both dams prevent fish from migrating upstream and sediment/debris from moving downstream.  Removing the dams would improve water quality and restore fish passage to over 30 miles of the White River.

Dam removals in the White River watershed

The WRP is working with our partners to remove deadbeat dams along the White River:

  • The Randolph Dam on the Third Branch of the White River – removed in 2016
  • The Killooleet Dam remnants on the Hancock Branch of the White River – removed in 2018
  • The Upper & Lower Eaton Dam on the First Branch of the White River – removal design in 2018
  • The Hyde Dam on the Second Branch of the White River – removal design in 2018

In sum these 5 projects will restore 275 miles of the White River to free-flowing conditions!

Eaton Dam removal design partners

The Upper & Lower Eaton Dam removal design project is in progress – a 30% design is complete and a 100% design will be completed by the end of 2018.

Project partners include 2 landowners, Randolph-based engineering firm Ripple Natural Resources, Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, Vermont Ecosystem Restoration Program, Upper Connecticut River Mitigation and Enhancement Fund, and US Fish & Wildlife Service.

For more information, visit our Fish Passage Project page.