Saxtons River Watershed Collaborative Receives $32,000 Grant to Address Flood Resiliency
Flooding is, by far, the most costly and devastating natural disaster that the State of Vermont has experienced in recent history and the Saxtons River is no exception. Significant flood events in the Saxtons River occurred in 1927, 1936, 1938, 1973, 1996 and 2011. Scientists project that the northeast may see an increase in the frequency and intensity of storms, which could result in an increase in flood events. These conditions require that we creatively, collaboratively, and actively explore new ways of addressing flood resiliency..
The Saxtons River Watershed Collaborative formed in the spring of 2015 to do just that. 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.
From the headwaters of the Saxtons River eastward to where the river enters the Connecticut River, the participating towns include Windham, Grafton, Rockingham, and Westminster. The Windham Regional Commission (WRC), Windham County Natural Resources Conservation District (WCNRCD), Vermont River Conservancy (VRC), the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, and the Windham Foundation have partnered with these towns 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 3 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 flume (also known as 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.
“This High Meadows Fund grant offers tremendous potential for the communities of the Saxtons River watershed to broadly and collaboratively address flood resiliency. We are thrilled by the collaborative spirit that this group has demonstrated and look forward to seeing what can be created when we work together to engage our partners and communities on a watershed-scale,” says Kim Smith, Planner at the WRC.