Lake Iroquois dock wins approval

State says facility won't increase boat traffic

March 27, 2008

By Greg Elias
Observer staff

State regulators have approved a public dock on Lake Iroquois that was proposed by a Boy Scout as a community service but drew opposition from homeowners worried about boat traffic and the environment.

The Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation issued the ruling on Tuesday. The approval includes 18 conditions, most notably one that moves the structure from its originally proposed location and places it adjacent to the existing boat ramp.

Jeffrey Dumas, the Williston teenager who had proposed the dock to fulfill an Eagle Scout requirement, was pleased with the decision.

"It's great news," he said in a brief telephone interview between classes at Champlain Valley Union High School.

He said the dock is the final step he needs to complete to become an Eagle Scout.

The dock will be 50 feet long, with 40 feet extending into the water and the remainder on shore. Located at the northern end of the lake on land controlled by the state Fish and Wildlife Department, it is designed to be moved out of the water when the boating season ends.

The dock would ease access for people with handicaps by permitting them to step into their boats rather than clamber over the bow, the state's ruling said. It would also help those who tow their boats to the lake by allowing them to dock their watercraft while they park their vehicle.

Dumas had been working on the dock design for several months last year when word got out. More than two dozen people then wrote to the state to express reservations.

The opposition triggered a public hearing. About 40 people attended the meeting held in January.

Opponents, apparently all people who own property on or around the lake, said the dock would attract more boaters and so increase the chances of further infecting the lake with invasive aquatic life. The lake is already clogged with Eurasian milfoil.

They also warned that the lake was crowded on summer weekends, and adding more boats might lead to a collision. Others said the dock's location and size would impact shoreline habitat and harm the area's natural beauty.

But the meeting also drew supporters, some of whom said the dock would serve those not fortunate enough to own lakefront homes.

Some favoring the dock said they struggle loading small children into their boats when launching from the ramp. Others with physical limitations said the dock would help them board their boats.

Susan Lamb, who owns property along the lake with her husband, Tony, was one of those who expressed concerns about the dock's impact on natural habitat. The new location won her over.

"I think it's a nice compromise," she said. "I think it will open access to the lake for people who might have trouble otherwise."

Roger Crouse, president of the Lake Iroquois Association, said he has mixed feelings about the dock's approval. He emphasized that he was speaking for himself and not on behalf of other members of the nonprofit, which consists of property owners who want to protect and enhance the lake's ecosystem.

He was pleased about the state's decision to leave undisturbed the area where the dock was originally proposed.

"I like the idea of not mowing that area where they (were going to) put the dock," he said. "That's going to help wildlife, and that's good."

But he disagrees with the state's assertion that the dock won't increase boat traffic.

"I'm just not sure how they can make that statement without a scientific study," he said.

Opponents have 30 days to appeal the decision in Vermont Environmental Court. Crouse said it was too soon to tell if his organization will appeal.

Dumas said he still has to build the dock, a project he hopes to complete by summer. Several community groups and individuals have offered to help, he said, and his fellow Boy Scouts may also lend a hand.

The experience of hearing different views and dealing with opposition has been an eye-opener, Dumas said.

"I've learned a lot as far as how things work," he said. "It's been a great experience. It's been a light into the world."