The Larger Picture

Shadow Lake Dam Project.

It was through their work on scenic Shadow Lake in northern Vermont that three Norwich students discovered the value of seeing the larger picture.

For their senior civil-engineering project, Richard Colburn ’15, Anthony Mushaw ’15, and Corinne Baita ’15 developed a plan to minimize home-basement flooding along Shadow Lake, Glover, Vt. (Photo courtesy of Ken Guilbault.)

For their senior civil-engineering project, Richard Colburn ’15, Anthony Mushaw ’15, and Corinne Baita ’15 developed a plan to minimize home-basement flooding along Shadow Lake, Glover, Vt. (Photo courtesy of Ken Guilbault.)

Nestled in the mountains about an hour north of Montpelier, the shimmering Shadow Lake is postcard-worthy, with cottages lining its idyllic shores. But beneath the surface, things on Shadow Lake and in the nearby town of Glover aren’t so perfect. Often residents find their basements flooded, which can cause expensive structural damage. As their senior project, Norwich civil-engineering majors Richard Colburn ‘15, Anthony Mushaw ‘15, and Corinne Baita ‘15 tasked themselves with finding a solution for the residents of Glover.

The problem is tied to a nearly100-year-old dam originally built to power a paper mill: During periods of heavy rains, the lake fills up faster than the dam can discharge the water downstream.

In the 2013–14 academic year, another senior-project team measured the rate at which water flowed in and out of the lake. This year, Colburn, Mushaw, and Baita took those results and set about answering the question, “How can we get the water out of the lake faster?”

For the first several months they focused strictly on the dam. Major reconstruction was out, Mushaw says, because “the dam itself is not easily accessible by any kind of construction equipment.” Their project mentor, Professor Mike Kelley, urged them to expand their view and look at the problem from a different angle.

They did, and a solution presented itself. “Instead of focusing just on getting the water out of the lake faster,” Coburn says, “we started to look at how we can also slow it down upstream, before it reaches the lake.”

Their resulting solution involves minor renovations to the dam to increase the outflow, as well as the construction of a storage basin upstream where excess water can be safely routed before it reaches the lake, then gradually drained back into the current. They presented their report on April 20 at the Annual Norwich Engineering Convocation and also took their findings to the Shadow Lake Association.

The group even hinted that the next phase—a construction plan—might make for a solid senior project next year. –Jacque E. Day

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