Blurt: Seven Days Staff Blog

NOTE: Blurt has been retired and is no longer updated regularly. For new content, follow these links:

OFF MESSAGE: Vermont News and Politics
BITE CLUB: Food and Drink Blog

« Dada Lives! | Main | Watch Wal-Mart Spread Like a Virus »

March 27, 2008

Twinfield Students Heart Small Scale Hydro

A group of ninth-graders at Twinfield Union School in Plainfield wants to fight global warming by building a small hydro-electric plant on school grounds. Kids these days.

The "Twinfield Hydro Team" explains their project in an op-ed in today's Times Argus:

We're proposing to divert a small amount of water through an 18-inch pipe before it's returned to the river. Depending on how much water we're able to use, we could generate enough power to cut Twinfield's $60,000 energy bill half or eliminate it entirely. We could reduce our school's carbon footprint, help our school budget and still maintain proper flows in the river to protect fish throughout the year.

Pretty cool, right? But they wrote the op-ed because they're having a hard time getting through the Agency of Natural Resource's permitting process. Bummer.

I stumbled upon this story while I was looking for Vermont videos on YouTube. I found this one, from James O'Hanlon at Moonlight Video. Last summer, middle school student (now high school student) Emyln Crocker spoke with 89-year-old former state legislator Alvin Warner about a small hydro-electric plant on his land in Lowell. Warner built it in the 1970s, as an alternative to the nuclear power generated by Vermont Yankee.

The best part about this video, other than all of the lush green foliage, is Warner's accent. This dude is no hippy.

Best of luck, you wild, rebellious teenagers!

These kids are impressive. I wrote about them last year in Seven Days. Check it out here:

What seems to be missing from this story (both last May's article and this blog entry) is any reference to the almost-certain ecological damage which will result from this hydro project. This particular waterway, Naismith Brook, is the healthiest tributary of the upper Winooski River and has, far and away, the best trout population of any of them. These are not large fish, but they are numerous and robust, allowing the brook to serve as a nursery stream to the Winooski main stem.

Another important feature of this brook is its salutary effect on the thermal pollution experienced by the main river. Temperatures in the main stem just above Naismith Brook often reach trout-stressing levels in July and August. Below the brook's confluence, however, the temperatures stay safe for trout all summer for some distance downstream.

The withdrawal of a significant volume of water from this waterway (and this project will require very significant withdrawals), particularly in the low-flow periods of mid-winter, can easily destroy an entire year-class of fish and kill the larvae of aquatic insects that make up the bulk of the food supply for the trout and other resident vertebrates in this brook.

Much more can be, and needs to be, said, but this blog is probably not the place for an extensive discussion of the issue. I would like to point out, however, that what we're seeing here - and what these kids are learning - is a narrow, linear approach to problem solving, the sort of thinking that has gotten us into so much environmental trouble in the industrial and post-industrial age. These kids need to understand the broader, holistic, picture that considers the ecosystem-wide impact of their actions. Failing to do that is failing to properly educate these youngsters to take their place in a world where global thinking will be essential if we are to survive in the ecologically-sensitive years ahead of us.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Stuck in VT (VIDEOS)

Solid State (Music)

Mistress Maeve (Sex)

All Rights Reserved © Da Capo Publishing Inc. 1995-2012 | PO Box 1164, Burlington, VT 05402-1164 | 802-864-5684