News

S.260 and the White River

You’ve probably heard a lot about the water quality issues in Lake Champlain recently. And you may know something about the state’s efforts to raise funding to address these issues. But did you know that the White River watershed is impacted by these efforts as well?

Vermont has been busy improving waterways throughout the state by passing laws that protect these important resources and providing funding to address water quality issues. And for the past few years, the state has ramped up those efforts in response to concerns about phosphorus issues in Lake Champlain – from establishing the Vermont Clean Water Initiative to developing the Clean Water Fund. The newly introduced S.260 bill seeks to continue this legacy.

S.260 would work to restore impaired waters throughout the State and protect healthy waters from degrading through the use of funding gathered through a Water Quality Fund. On the surface, this bill sounds like it will continue the state’s legacy of protecting existing watersheds. So, how did it come about and why is it important to the White River watershed?

Act 97: Vermont Clean Water Initiative

  • The Vermont Clean Water Initiative was established with the intent to protect the rivers, streams, lakes, and ponds throughout Vermont.
  • A major concern with the introduction of this initiative was determining where funding for improving water quality would come from.

Act 64: Vermont Clean Water Act

  • Governor Shumlin passed this act, establishing the Clean Water Fund.
  • Initial funding for the first three years of the Clean Water Fund was raised through a fee on property transfer tax.
  • However, continued funding needed to be determined after that point.

Act 73: The Working Group on Clean Water Funding

  • Since the Clean Water Fund was only financed through the first three years of its inception, it was necessary to develop a new method of funding.
  • The working group goal was to determine long-term funding methods for protecting and restoring the waters throughout Vermont.

S.260: Water Quality Fund

  • This bill seeks to develop a Water Quality Fund that will replace the Clean Water Fund currently in effect within the state.
  • This bill would establish some form of authority that directly handles the financing required for water quality initiatives.
  • S.260 seeks to ensure that water quality funding will continue to be available for years to come.

Many watershed groups throughout the state have testified in favor of S.260. If passed, this bill would allow for thousands of projects to be funded across the state. With increased support from the Water Quality Fund, hundreds of on-the-ground projects could be completed within the White River watershed. This is an important bill to keep an eye on, particularly for watershed groups like the White River Partnership.

For more information about S.260, follow this link.

5 Olde Fundraising Dinners Benefit WRP

The White River Partnership and 5 Olde Tavern in South Royalton invite you to enjoy a great dinner for a good cause on the last Monday of January, February, and March: January 29, February 26, and March 26. Eat dinner anytime between 5pm and 9pm and 5 Olde Tavern will donate 10% of your food purchases to the WRP to support our work in 2018.

In 2018 the WRP will work with individuals, businesses, schools, local and regional organizations, and state and federal agencies to:

Plant 3,500 native trees along the river to improve water quality and habitat;
Engage 500 teachers and students in hands-on watershed education programs;
Conserve and restore 10 acres of active floodplain to improve flood resilience;
Monitor water quality at 23 swimming holes around the watershed;
Replace an under-sized, stream-crossing culvert with a fish-friendly, flood-resilient structure; and
Engage 750 community volunteers in monitoring, restoration, and stewardship projects.

The fundraising dinner series starts on Monday, January 29. Please RSVP to info[at]whiteriverpartnership.org if you’d like to join the WRP Board of Directors’ table at 6pm.

Floodplains conserved in Hancock, Stockbridge

The White River Partnership (WRP), Vermont River Conservancy (VRC), Vermont River Management Program, and 4 private landowners have conserved 41 acres of floodplain along the White River in Hancock and Stockbridge.

The 14.2-acre Hancock project site is located just upstream of Hancock village, and just downstream of a 15.4-acre floodplain conserved in 2016.  Tropical Storm Irene flood waters washed across and deposited large amounts of sediment on these hay fields, highlighting the need to protect the fields for floodplain function.  In sum the 2 Hancock project sites protect active floodplain along 3,300 feet of the White River.

The 26.8-acre Stockbridge project site is located just upstream of Gaysville village and, unlike the Hancock project site, sits 30 feet above the White River.  Instead of water spreading out across the fields, flooding from Tropical Storm Irene scoured 138,000 cubic yards of material from the parcel’s streambanks.  This catastrophic erosion highlighted the parcel’s vulnerability and the need to protect it from future development.

The floodplain conservation projects prohibit future development and compensate the landowners for flood-related property loss.  Allowing the river to reconnect to these critical floodplains will reduce the speed and erosive power of flood waters before they reach the Hancock and Gaysville villages.

The WRP received a Vermont Ecosystem Restoration Program (ERP) grant to work with VRC on acquiring the permanent conservation easement and to work with a Vermont Youth Conservation Corps crew and community volunteers to restore 50-100 feet of native trees along the length of the fields.

Since 2008 the WRP has worked with the ERP, VRC, and Vermont Land Trust to complete 9 floodplain conservation projects, conserving 148.8 acres on river-front properties in Granville, Hancock, Randolph, Rochester, Royalton, and Stockbridge.

The WRP has received ERP funds to work with VRC and a private landowner to complete a 10th floodplain protection project in 2018: conserving 9 acres on the White River in Gaysville.

Monitoring White River crayfish

Crayfish capture people’s attention: they are abundant, yet secretive and somewhat elusive, and just the right amount of scary to pick up. For all of these reasons, they have been a staple of the White River Partnership’s watershed education program since its inception in 2010.

Through the WRP crayfish unit, students and teachers learn about the important role crayfish play in the river’s food web and how the food web might be impacted by the proliferation of non-native crayfish species found in many parts of the watershed. Students also learn how to identify White River crayfish species and put those skills to use out at the river.  It’s pretty clear that students love looking for crayfish in the name of science!

Another exciting aspect of the WRP program is that the field data collected by students doesn’t just end up on a shelf. Instead it is shared with Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation scientists who use the data to enhance their understanding of crayfish distribution throughout the state. The WRP program also serves as an early-detection system since the state is constantly on the lookout for the arrival of new crayfish species. The 2017 data sharing component is being funded by a generous grant from the state’s Grant-In-Aid program.

Follow this link to learn more about crayfish and other WRP watershed education units.

Help build a river access trail

You are invited to help the White River Partnership, Vermont River Conservancy, and Town of Sharon build a river access trail on Sunday, June 11 from 2-4pm. The event will be at the new Broad Brook Access in Sharon.

Volunteers should meet at the Broad Brook Cemetery (1106 River Road) and dress to get dirty in long sleeves, long pants, and closed-toed shoes. Gloves, loppers, shovels, pick-mattocks, and light snacks will be provided – feel free to bring your own tools if you have them.

The Broad Brook Access is Sharon’s newest river access site located just downstream of the Broad Brook confluence with the White River.  This 10-acre field, located on both sides of the Broad Brook Cemetery, was recently acquired from the landowner by the Vermont River Conservancy; conserved with a permanent easement protecting open space and public access; and donated to the Town of Sharon in March 2017.

The site has long been used for informal fishing access to the mouth of Broad Brook, which is one of the most important trout spawning streams in the lower White River.  The June 11 event will build a river access trail through the existing riparian buffer to insure safe, reliable access for fishermen, paddlers, tubers, and more. Formalizing river access also allows the Broad Brook Access to be added to the online White River Water Trail map, an emerging network of publicly-accessible recreation sites along the White River.

The June 11 event is funded by a Vermont Community Foundation grant, and is part of the WRP’s Second Sunday Event series – 5 opportunities to get involved in the WRP’s work to improve the long-term health of the White River and its watershed! For more information, follow this link.