STAFF: EMILY DAVIS
Water quality projects are an integral part of our regional planning efforts, since they are affected by and influence many other planning programs, and it directly affects our community well-being.
VT’s Department of Environmental Conservation writes, “Vermonters and our visitors love the state’s streams, rivers, lakes, ponds and wetlands – they help define our Green Mountain landscape. We know our quality of life depends upon access to clean and healthy water.” The Windham region is committed to doing its part in helping Vermonters protect and preserve our water resources.
The WRC’s water quality planning efforts fall under the supervision and management of the Natural Resources Committee.
The Vermont Clean Water Initiative
In 2015, the Vermont state legislature passed Act 64, or VT’s Clean Water Act (VCWA). The comprehensive statute mandated an “all-in” approach, and creates new standards and requirements that will reduce polluted runoff, nutrient loading, and sedimentation from developed lands (including highways, roads and other impervious surfaces), farms, and certain wastewater and drinking water facilities.
The VCWA also supports the use of “natural infrastructure” – river corridors, floodplains, wetlands and forests– to reduce stormwater pollution and erosion, and build resilience in Vermont’s communities.
To support our communities in creating a clean water future for Vermont, the WRC has been working with State agencies to provide both municipalities and Vermonters with education and outreach, technical assistance, and planning and financial support. A new Clean Water Fund (forthcoming in the 2017 legislative session) will build on existing programs to assist communities and partners in targeting and implementing priority water quality projects.
We look forward to working with you to achieve clean water in Vermont! Please visit the links and resources below to learn about the VCWA and what it means for towns, farmers, and ecological health.
The VCWA and Water Quality Information:
- Act 64 Summary, PDF
- Flow, the official blog of the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation's Watershed Management Division.
- Stream Habitat and Aquatic Populations, PDF Power Point Presentation by Rich Kirn, fisheries program manager, Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department.
- Stream and River Habitat and Infrastructure Resilience: Two Sides of the Same Coin, PDF PowerPoint Presentation by Chris Campany, executive director, Windham Regional Commission.
Resources for Municipalities
- Municipal Roads General Permit factsheet (VT DEC), PDF
- Better Roads Grant brochure (VTrans), PDF
- Vermont’s Clean Water and Municipal Transportation Public Meeting, Video WRC hosted two Public Outreach meetings on January 11, 2016 to discuss the VT Department of Environmental Conservation Municipal Roadway Permit implementation timeline that will be required for all municipalities. In this video, Jim Ryan, DEC, presents an overview of the regulatory process.
Resources for Farmers
- VT’s 2016 Required Agricultural Practice’s (RAPs) Summary Factsheet, PDF
- Farm Size Rule RAP Factsheet, PDF
- Windham Country Natural Resources Conservation District’s (WCNRCD) website. The WRC works closely with the WCNRCD as our regional agricultural partners to help landowners, producers, and communities conserve their land and water resources.
Water Quality Planning and Basin Plans
The WRC supports the VT DEC and this region’s Watershed Coordinator to create Tactical Basin Plans, referring to the 15 major drainage basin planning units in the state. The Windham Region covers two of these basins, Basin 11 and 13.
Below are links to the VT DEC’s website, where more information on the tactical planning process can be found:
- Basin 11/13 – Basin planning for the West, Williams, and Saxtons Rivers, with the Salmon, Canoe, Sacketts, East Putney, Chase, Fullam, Mill, and Morse Brooks and sections of the Connecticut River.
- Ball Mountain Brook Corridor Plan, PDF
- Rock River Watershed Phase 2 SGA, PDF
- Saxtons River Corridor Plan, PDF
- Wardsboro River Corridor Plan, PDF
- Winhall River Corridor Plan, PDF
- Basin 12/13 – Basin planning for the Deerfield, Green, and North Rivers, with the Fall River, Broad Brook, Crosby, and Whetstone Brooks.
- Crosby Brook Stream Corridor Restoration Plan, PDF
- Whetstone Brook Watershed Corridor Plan, PDF
Basin 11 Water Quality Project Prioritization
The State of Vermont has delineated its water bodies into fifteen major drainage basin planning units, or “Basins.” Each Basin has its own tactical plan, and is updated every five years with the input of its corresponding regional planning commissions. The listed projects in each of these Basin Plans are designed to be compatible with the standards requirements established by VT’s Clean Water Act.
The West, William, Saxtons and Connecticut River watersheds, or “Basin 11”, drains 644 square miles of the Windham region. In the winter of 2016, the WRC’s Clean Water Action Committee (overseen by the Natural resources Committee), along with Basin 11’s Watershed Coordinator Marie Caduto prioritized the long list of water quality actions itemized in Basin 11’s 2015 tactical basin plan (see link below).
To begin the prioritization process, the committee first identified overarching water quality goals for the Basin that also complemented the water quality policies of the towns and Windham Region. Those goals are:
- Work geographically from headwaters to mouth to focus on connectivity and target habitat fragmentation.
- Improve water quality while also targeting habitat improvement and flood resiliency.
- Re-classification of streams, thereby protecting high-standard water bodies.
- Control invasive species, thereby addressing sedimentation and fluvial erosion.
- Control nutrient contamination from agricultural sources.
- Establish riparian buffers.
- Focus on main river corridors.
Once these goals were identified, individual action items were drawn from the tactical basin plan that supported those efforts.
Moving forward, the WRC’s Natural Resources Committee, the VT DEC, and the Windham County Natural Resources Conservation District will work towards funding the implementation actions that directly address these water quality goals. The committee hopes that this prioritization process can be replicated in Basin 12’s tactical plan.