Minor Flooding in Vt. as Lake Champlain Rises

(NECN: Jack Thurston, Burlington, Vt.) - Melting snow trickling from the mountains into streams and rivers combined with new rainfall to drive up the level of Lake Champlain this week. It rose a few inches past its 100' flood stage, drowning small parts of Burlington's waterfront. The King Street ferry dock and a popular summertime restaurant called Breakwater Café & Grill have not yet opened for the season.

"Each day, it creeps up a little bit further," said Joe Doud, who works near the water.

Doud is the assistant general manager for the Vermont Lake Monsters baseball team, the Single-A affiliate of the Oakland A's. The team's offices on the waterfront saw monstrous damage in April of 2011, when the lake level reached even higher than it is today.

"We'll worry when it's inside," Doud said of the rising water, doubting he'll see the water anywhere near 2011's level. "I think we'll be ok."

The volume of water gushing into Lake Champlain from Vermont's rivers and streams means hydroelectric dams are very busy. "There's a lot of power coming out of those waterways," said Dotty Schnure of Green Mountain Power.

Schnure said the utility's 32 hydro dams are churning out four times as much electricity now as they do during late summer or early fall. She said last week, the dams were producing enough electricity each day to meet the daily needs of 72,500 homes.

"In-state hydroelectric accounts for about 10-15 percent of our electricity, and it's great because it's a no-emission, renewable, local resource," Schnure said. "It can be challenging at this time of year, because there's a lot of debris in the water. Tree branches; a lot of debris. So our crews really have to go out there, keep the gateways cleaned, because you can't let the debris get in the generator."

Lake Champlain is expected to keep rising slightly through the weekend, according to the National Weather Service. The rise may impact properties near the shoreline and low-lying roads, piers, and docks. For now, forecasters believe any flooding will be minor.

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