STAFF: EMILY DAVIS
The WRC conducts regional natural resource and land use planning, working with individuals and organizations to promote and preserve natural resources and rural land values. The program is guided by the Commission’s Natural Resources Committee.
Recent efforts have included the development of basin tactical plans, river corridor management plans, and protection/restoration implementation projects. The WRC has engaged with the Saxtons River Watershed and the Deerfield River Watershed Collaborative (both of which formed during the spring of 2015). These partnerships are addressing flood resiliency and water quality at a landscape scale.
The Natural Resources Committee has organized educational programs and events to support towns and Conservation Commissions. Future programming will include work planning for regional open space, wildlife habitat and working forest conservation and efforts in support of the update of the Windham Regional Plan.
The Vermont Clean Water Act
The Vermont Legislature recently passed Act 64, the Vermont Clean Water Initiative, to set caps on the amount of nutrients (e.g. nitrogen, phosphorus) in Vermont’s’ lakes and waterways. ACT 64 creates a new permit process for municipalities to address stormwater run-off (e.g. nutrientloading and sedimentation) from roadways, both paved and unpaved. ACT 64 also mandates that Required Agricultural Practices standards be set for farm operations. While the required standards under ACT 64 are still under development, these factsheets highlight proposed changes and the current status of these two components of ACT 64:
- Municipal Roads General Permit factsheet: PDF
- Water Quality Grant Opportunities for Municipalities: PDF
- Required Agricultural Practices factsheet: PDF
Green Infrastructure: Tools to Revolutionize Stormwater Management
Green infrastructure (GI) is beginning to revolutionize how we alleviate flooding and conserve our water resources by shifting how we approach land development and manage stormwater. For example, traditional stormwater management employs costly underground infrastructure to move stormwater off site as quickly as possible. In contrast GI seeks to “slow it down, spread it out, and soak it in,” thereby retaining water onsite to the extent possible, which can dramatically reduce flooding and its associated impact to public safety and infrastructure.
GI is a suite of design tools and structural techniques that help to maintain natural hydrologic processes. There are two broad approaches to GI: Low Impact Development is a planning and design approach that seeks to maintain GI by minimizing land disturbance and avoiding sensitive ecological areas. Green Stormwater Infrastructure is a set of on-the-ground management practices that allow stormwater to be managed in the areas where runoff is produced and seeks to restore and maintain natural hydrologic processes.
Saxtons River Watershed Collaborative Received $32,000 Grant to Address Flood Resiliency
The Saxtons River Watershed Collaborative formed in the spring of 2015 to creatively, collaboratively, and actively explore new ways of addressing flood resiliency. With funding and support from the High Meadows Fund, the 18-month project takes a watershed-scale approach to resiliency through a multi-faceted partnership that integrates conservation, education, and policy to protect public safety and infrastructure while helping to protect our water resources.
The Windham Regional Commission (WRC) has partnered with four towns (include Windham, Grafton, Rockingham, and Westminster) and the Windham County Natural Resources Conservation District (WCNRCD), Vermont River Conservancy (VRC), the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, and the Windham Foundation to support the work. These entities form the core, but not the boundaries of this Collaborative. Building strong relationships with diverse local public and private entities will continue to be a core goal of this project.
The grant’s multifaceted approach includes several components: The WCNRCD will work with Grafton Elementary School students and other community volunteers to restore vegetation on three damaged riverfront sites through buffer plantings to help stabilize river banks and improve water quality. In addition, the VRC will identify property owners in the river corridor interested in establishing conservation easements in order to protect sensitive, flood-prone land from future development. As part of its educational outreach, the Collaborative will establish a public education center that demonstrates river dynamics and conservation practices. The center will house a stream table for modeling stream and river behavior to school groups, road crews and members of the public. The grant will be kicked off with a free public workshop that provides landowners and other interested individuals with the resources to conserve and manage lands in the river corridor to mitigate flood damage. Finally, the WRC will work with town officials to review existing town floodplain ordinances with consideration of where existing policies may be strengthened in order to help protect life and property.
Wardsboro Brook Corridor Plan: PDF, 18 MB
Green River Corridor Plan: PDF 14 MB
Woodlands of the Windham Region – Our Working Landscape
WRC Natural Resources Spring 2013 Forum
Forests cover 86% of Windham County, and the county is reputed to be the greatest forest timber resource in Vermont because of its forestland area, growth rates, and timber volumes.
Graduate students from the Conway School, Rachel Edwards, Anna Fialkoff and Jessica Orkin, presented research collected at a forum, hosted by the WRC Natural Resources Committee on April 18th. During the winter months of January and February, the graduate students hosted focus groups and interviewed individual landowners, foresters, educators, urban and rural dwellers, and people young and old, to ascertain a greater understanding of the cultural, economic, and conservation values of the working forest landscape of the Windham region.
See their presentation, with numerous graphics that tell the story, here. (7 mb. PDF)