News

Rochester Stormwater Master Plan complete

The WRP has worked with the town of Rochester, VT Department of Environmental Conservation, and Watershed Consulting Associates to develop a Stormwater Master Plan for the village of Rochester.

Project background

The community of Rochester was hard hit during Tropical Storm Irene, which damaged infrastructure and caused devastating flooding impacts.

The community is making strides to become more resilient to future flooding events, and to protect the town’s water resources by developing a Stormwater Master Plan (SWMP). Recognizing that the future Municipal Roads General Permit will address the rural backroad network, the SWMP will target the village area where developed infrastructure and the most condensed impervious surfaces are located.

The SWMP Project was initiated by the town as a result of concerns about several stormwater runoff issues in the village. The WRP helped coordinate a site visit with technical assistance providers and town officials. Partners visited the top 4 action locations identified in the “Town of Rochester Stormwater Infrastructure Mapping Project” report.

The Project area encompasses 32 acres. Within this area the Stormwater Infrastructure Mapping report estimated that there’s the potential to implement on-the-ground projects that would remove 10,167 pounds of sediment and 56.7 pounds of nitrogen from Stormwater runoff into the White River.

Given the town’s stormwater runoff concerns and the potential to reduce significant inputs of both sediment and nitrogen, the site visit attendees agreed that all 4 action locations should be included in the Project.

Project goals

The goal of the SWMP Project was to reduce stormwater runoff in the village of Rochester. To accomplish this goal, the Project conducted an assessment to determine where stormwater runoff is generated and where it can be captured and removed efficiently by on-the-ground projects.

The resulting SWMP includes a prioritized list of projects and strategies to address/mitigate stormwater runoff, and contains recommendations to preserve natural features and functions, as well as encourage use of low impact green stormwater infrastructure.

Strategic importance

The SWMP Project was identified as a high-priority in the 2013 White River Tactical Basin Plan (Plan), which allowed the WRP to work with the town of Rochester to apply for VT Ecosystem Restoration Program funding to implement the Project in 2018.

As a next step the WRP will work with Project partners to identify funding to implement the top 3 priority on-the-ground stormwater mitigation projects.

 

WRP honors Outstanding Watershed Partners

The WRP honored 2 Outstanding Watershed Partners at our Annual Meeting on Saturday, October 27 at the Arnold Block in Bethel.

“This year’s Annual Meeting gave folks a chance to catch up with their watershed neighbors, enjoy appetizers provided by 5 Olde Tavern, and celebrate our collective work to improve the long-term health of the White River watershed,” says WRP Executive Director Mary Russ.

As part of the celebration, the WRP honored Rich Kirn and Madeleine Lyttle as the first co-recipients of the WRP’s Outstanding Watershed Partner award. The new award recognizes individuals who make outstanding contributions to the WRP and the White River watershed.

Award co-recipients Rich Kirn and Madeleine Lyttle are fisheries biologists, who retired in 2018 from the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department and US Fish & Wildlife Service respectively. Both Rich and Madeleine worked regionally – gathering data, developing on-the-ground projects, and advocating for improved habitat and aquatic organism passage throughout Vermont.

However the award recognizes their work in the White River watershed specifically. One example of their outstanding partnership efforts relates to a WRP flood recovery project following Tropical Storm Irene.

After the flood Rich and Madeleine provided technical assistance and funding to a Rochester-based project that replaced 6 flood-damaged, stream-crossing culverts with larger, fish-friendly, flood-resilient structures between 2012 and 2015. Extending their initial investment, Rich and Madeleine’s support enabled the project team to replace an additional 4 under-sized, stream-crossing culverts between 2016 and 2018. In sum the project has opened 20 miles of trout stream to fish passage and reduced the likelihood of significant flood damage along 10 miles of town-maintained roads in Rochester and Hancock.

“Both Rich and Madeleine personify our concept of an outstanding partner,” says Russ. “Their commitment to and investment in our mission have improved the long-term health of the White River watershed while increasing our effectiveness as an organization.”

The WRP presented Rich and Madeleine with a framed water color by Randolph resident and artist Paul Calter. The water color featured Stony Brook, an important cold-water, trout-spawning tributary to the White River in Stockbridge.

Upcoming events

Stay posted on WRP projects

The WRP posts information about on-the-ground watershed improvement projects on our Facebook page. We invite you to “Like” the page in order to stay posted on our work to improve the long-term health of the White River and its watershed.

The WRP also distributes a biannual electronic newsletter to share project updates and a monthly volunteer opportunity email. We invite you to sign-up to receive our e-newsletter and volunteer opportunity announcements by completing the form on the right-hand side of this webpage.

For more information

Please contact us for more information about our projects, upcoming events, or other ways to get involved!

 

Eaton Dams removal design project

The WRP is working with partners to complete a design to remove the Upper & Lower Eaton Dams on the First Branch of the White River in Royalton.

Upper Eaton Dam

View upstream from Mill Village in 1913: Lower Dam, Factory, Covered Bridge, and Upper Dam (Royalton Historical Society)

The Upper Eaton Dam is located immediately upstream of Royalton’s Mill Road bridge.

Originally built from logs, the dam was rebuilt in 1924 using concrete. The dam was damaged in the 1927 flood, and was not rebuilt.

This dam provided power for the “factory” building that was built in 1882. Before it burned in 1968, the factory was used to make finished lumber, shoes, and small wood parts like drum hoops, hockey sticks, step stools, and clothes pins.

Lower Eaton Dam

The Lower Eaton Dam is located downstream of the Mill Road bridge and immediately upstream of the Mill Village complex.

Originally built from logs in 1776, this dam was rebuilt in the 1920s using concrete. The dam was damaged in the 1927 flood, and was rebuilt in 1943.

This dam provided power for the Mill Village businesses, including a grist mill, saw mill, carding machines and fulling mill, and blacksmith shop. Manufacturing at the Mill Village declined after the railroad was built and South Royalton village became the commerce center in town around the 1870s. The saw mill was in operation until 1970.

Why remove dams?

There are over 1,000 dams located on Vermont’s rivers and streams that serve no useful purpose: originally built to provide a source of power for manufacturing and other private and public uses, these “deadbeat” dams have been abandoned and most have fallen into disrepair.

However many of these dams still span the river channels they were built to harness. So they are blocking the movement of water, sediment, and aquatic life.

Removing these dams restores connectivity to a river system:

  • Clean water: Sediments trapped behind a dam can contain high levels of pollutants. Removing a dam allows sediments to move through the system, improving water quality.
  • Fish movement: Vermont’s native fish need to move upstream to find food, to lay their eggs, and to seek cold water during the hot summer months. Removing a dam allows fish and other aquatic life to move freely between upstream and downstream habitats.
  • Fewer flood damages: Dams elevate water levels and may cause localized flooding during rain events. Removing a dam returns water levels to normal elevations and may reduce damages associated with localized flooding.

The Upper & Lower Eaton Dams are “deadbeat” dams – they no longer serve a useful purpose, and are in disrepair.  Both dams prevent fish from migrating upstream and sediment/debris from moving downstream.  Removing the dams would improve water quality and restore fish passage to over 30 miles of the White River.

Dam removals in the White River watershed

The WRP is working with our partners to remove deadbeat dams along the White River:

  • The Randolph Dam on the Third Branch of the White River – removed in 2016
  • The Killooleet Dam remnants on the Hancock Branch of the White River – removed in 2018
  • The Upper & Lower Eaton Dam on the First Branch of the White River – removal design in 2018
  • The Hyde Dam on the Second Branch of the White River – removal design in 2018

In sum these 5 projects will restore 275 miles of the White River to free-flowing conditions!

Eaton Dam removal design partners

The Upper & Lower Eaton Dam removal design project is in progress – a 30% design is complete and a 100% design will be completed by the end of 2018.

Project partners include 2 landowners, Randolph-based engineering firm Ripple Natural Resources, Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, Vermont Ecosystem Restoration Program, Upper Connecticut River Mitigation and Enhancement Fund, and US Fish & Wildlife Service.

For more information, visit our Fish Passage Project page.

Killooleet Dam removed on the Hancock Branch

The WRP has completed a project to remove the Killooleet Dam from the White River’s Hancock Branch.

Killooleet Dam remnants before removal

From August to September 2018 the WRP worked with partners to remove the remnants of the Killooleet Dam and to raise streambed elevation along 500 feet of the Hancock Branch.

Identified as a high-priority in two state-funded reports, the project opens 87 miles of stream to fish passage; improves in-stream habitat and channel stability; and reconnects the Hancock Branch to the floodplain along its north bank.

Dam history

The Killooleet Dam was originally built in the early 1900s to feed a private trout fishing pond. The dam was damaged during the 1927 flood, but was rebuilt when a summer camp was created at the site of the former trout fishing club.

According to the Camp Killooleet website, “Founded in 1927 by Margaret Bartlett and Toni Taylor, Killooleet has been owned and directed by the Seeger Family for over sixty years.” John and Ellie Seeger passed the business along to their daughter Kate and her husband Dean Spencer in 1998.

The dam was damaged during a flood in 2008, then breached during Tropical Storm Irene in August 2011. Remnants of the dam blocked a portion of the Hancock Branch and kept the stream from accessing the floodplain along its north bank.

2018 project

In 2017 the WRP received funding to develop priority projects identified in the state-funded Upper & Middle White River Corridor Plan (2015). The Plan identified 2 high-priority projects along Camp Killooleet’s property: removing the Killooleet Dam and reconnecting floodplain along the Hancock Branch.

Building a channel-spanning rock weir

The project developed after Kate Seeger expressed an interest in partnering on both projects and funded the engineering design to expedite implementation. Working closely with Kate and engineering firm Ripple Natural Resources, the WRP applied for and received VT Ecosystem Restoration Program funds to implement both in-stream projects in 2018.

After finalizing the design, applying for permits, and advertising for bids, the project partners hired Harvey’s Excavating (Rochester) to construct the in-stream project components during summer 2018. Harvey’s removed the Killooleet Dam in August, breaking apart the concrete dam remnants and removing the pieces. In September Harvey’s built 3 channel-spanning rock weirs along a 500-foot stretch of the Hancock Branch using large stone and native rock found on-site.

Project outcomes

New pool complex at former Killooleet Dam site

Removing the Killooleet Dam opens 87 miles of stream to fish passage and the free-flowing movement of sediment, ice, and debris, including 36 miles upstream and 51 miles downstream of the former dam site.

Building 3 channel-spanning rock weirs along 500 feet of the Hancock Branch reconnects the stream to an adjacent floodplain by raising the streambed elevation and improves fish habitat by creating pool habitat and channel roughness.

Project partners include Camp Killooleet, Ripple Natural Resources (Randolph), Harvey’s Excavating, VT Department of Environmental Conservation, and VT Ecosystem Restoration Program.

Working with partners to restore fish passage is one important way the WRP accomplishes its mission: bringing people together to improve the long-term health of the White River and its watershed. Since 2008 the WRP has worked with partners, funders, and 5 towns to complete 14 culvert replacement and dam removal projects, opening 212 miles of river in Hancock, Pomfret, Randolph, Rochester, and Sharon.