Grant Funding Provided for Blake Higgins Dam Removal by Connecticut River Conservancy

The Saxtons River dam removal project will receive funding from The Conservation Alliance.

Connecticut River Conservancy (CRC) is excited to announce that the organization has received funding for the removal of a dam on the Saxtons River. The Conservation Alliance, a national organization which awards grants to projects that protect our nation’s most vulnerable species and habitats, determined the CRC’s work to remove the old Blake Higgins Dam to be a crucial component of restoring the Connecticut River Watershed. Many conservancy groups across the US vie for grants such as The Conservation Alliance’s, and we are honored to have been nominated by Darn Tough Vermont to receive significant funds needed to see this project through.

“Restoring free-flowing rivers and providing public access for people to enjoy their local river makes communities stronger,” said Josie Norris, grant program director at The Conservation Alliance. “We are proud to fund the Connecticut River Conservancy’s effort to remove the Blake Higgins dam.“

Photos by Peter Bergstrom

The Saxtons River is a major tributary of the Connecticut River, flowing into the river just south of Bellows Falls Vermont. Just 850 feet north of this confluence is the old Blake Higgins Dam, which is owned by the State of Vermont. It is estimated that the 90 foot long concrete structure has held back about 4 feet deep of sediment extending about 280 feet upstream of the dam. Not only that, the Saxtons provides crucial habitat for migratory fish species, specifically the Sea Lamprey. CRC has observed a plethora of potential habitat upstream of Blake Higgins that has not been used by the Lamprey at all, despite the fact that the same habitat just south of the dam has been observed to be heavily populated during the spawning season. The impediment of natural flows of the river, the cycling of sediments and nutrients that that flow provides, and the inability of migrating species to access crucial habitat were all factors that led CRC and the State of Vermont to identify this project as one of utmost importance in terms of restoring stream health in the watershed.

“CRC’s partnership with the State of Vermont, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Vermont River Conservancy, and local entities is a strong indicator of the importance of this restoration project,” said Ron Rhodes, Interim Executive Director at Connecticut River Conservancy. “We are proud to be part of the team and look forward to the eventual removal of this old dam.”

“Nominating the CRC to receive funding to remove the dam on the Saxtons River was the easy part,” said Courtney Laggner, Brand & Community Marketing Manager at Darn Tough Vermont. “The next piece of the puzzle is educating people on the importance of free-flowing water and the impacts that it has on wildlife and beyond.”

The funding provided from the Alliance will allow the Conservancy to address these concerns while also improving public access and recreation in the area. For decades this portion of the Saxtons has been used for fishing, swimming, and hiking, but poor access has always been an obstacle in providing these benefits to the public. As part of this project, Connecticut River Conservancy is working with Vermont River Conservancy (VRC), Island Corporation, and regional partners to explore opportunities to improve public access following dam removal. Additional funding and permits are being secured in the months ahead. Work is estimated to begin in 2023, with dam removal likely in 2024.

About Connecticut River Conservancy:

Since 1952, Connecticut River Conservancy has been the voice for the Connecticut River watershed, from source to sea. They collaborate with partners across four states to protect and advocate for your rivers and educate and engage communities. They bring people together to prevent pollution, improve habitat, and promote enjoyment of the rivers and streams. Healthy rivers support healthy economies.

About The Conservation Alliance:

The Conservation Alliance is an organization of 270 like-minded businesses whose collective contributions support grassroots environmental organizations and their efforts to protect wild places where outdoor enthusiasts recreate. Alliance funds have played a key role in protecting rivers, trails, wildlands, and climbing areas throughout North America. Membership in the Alliance is open to all companies who care about protecting our most threatened wild places for habitat and outdoor recreation. Since 1989, we have contributed more than $27,370,000 in grants to conservation organizations whose collective efforts have helped protect 73 million acres of land and 3,580 miles of rivers; stop or remove 37 dams; acquire 21 climbing areas; and designate five marine reserves. For complete information about The Conservation Alliance, visit

About Darn Tough Vermont:

Darn Tough Vermont is an American manufacturer of premium, all-weather outdoor and lifestyle socks backed up by the industry’s original unconditional guarantee for life. The company offers both Specialty and Tactical product lines. Darn Tough Vermont’s Specialty line of socks includes Hike, Lifestyle, Run, Snow, Athletic, Work, Hunt, and Juniors’ styles. Darn Tough’s product is distinguished from industry competitors by 100 percent USA manufacturing; exceptional comfort, durability and fit; True-SeamlessTM technology; and an exclusive blend of either ultra-fine, premium Merino wool or Coolmax®/Thermolite®. Founded by Ric Cabot in 2004, a third-generation sock maker, Darn Tough Vermont operates out of Cabot Hosiery Mills. For more information about Darn Tough Vermont socks, please visit: