One component of a healthy watershed is having native vegetation throughout the landscape. Vegetation plays a particularly important role along waterways, establishing a forested riparian buffer through planting trees has countless benefits for both the individual property as well as the entire watershed. In addition to benefiting the property value and aesthetics of the land, planted buffers and healthy wetlands increase available wildlife cover and food supply in both the aquatic and terrestrial environment; enhance biological diversity and connectivity of wild lands; protect water quality by filtering sediment, nutrients, and chemicals; reduce erosion and flooding damage, and reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere.
PMNRCD works with farmers and other landowners on enhancing and restoring riparian buffers through tree plantings. The District receives tree planting funding through Trees for Streams, a state-wide program funded by an Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) and Lake Champlain Basin Program (LCBP) Ecosystem Restoration Program (ERP) grant through the Vermont Association of Conservation Districts and Pur Projet a corporation aimed at connecting companies with planting projects in areas of need.
If you think your property would benefit from the addition of native trees and shrubs and are interested in learning more about our planting programs please contact us.
Watershed Studies and Monitoring Activities
The District participates in many activities that focus on holistic watershed health and stability. Three main focus areas include thermal monitoring, water quality monitoring (for bacteria, nutrients, and sediment in streams and lakes), and geomorphic assessments.
Thermal Monitoring The District participated in a thermal monitoring study on the Mettowee River between 1999 and 2007. Because the Mettowee River runs South-North, it is susceptible to high water temperatures in the summer. The lack of shading at mid-day is exacerbated by lack of forested buffers along the mainstem and several of the larger tributaries. We use the temperature data to prioritize riparian buffer plantings along Flower Brook, Beaver Brook, and the Mettowee River.
Water Quality Monitoring Beginning in 2003, the District has monitored the bacteria, nutrient, and sediment concentrations in our area streams. We have information available upon request and are happy to speak with you about our data results. (sidebar with links to the VDEC webpage w geomorphic assessments and to a couple of our reports).
Since 2013, we have focused on water quality in the Mettowee River Valley, with special attention being paid to the Flower Brook subwatershed, located in Danby, Tinmouth, and Pawlet. We are using the results of our monitoring data to carefully plan sediment and nutrient-reduction projects and to then track improvements to water quality as a result. We have used our data to plan livestock exclusion projects, septic needs assessments, and have increased our related education and outreach in these towns. In 2015 we expanded our monitoring to include rigorous data collection in the Poultney River watershed, augmenting the many years of data that we have for the mainstem of the Poultney and Castleton Rivers with data from a number of smaller tributaries.
Stream Geomorphic Assessments and Corridor Planning Since its inception, we have actively participated in the State of Vermont’s Stream Geomorphic Assessment program, assisting with the studies and writing grants to assess most of the major streams and tributaries in our area. The results of these assessments include identification of a series of recommended implementation projects aimed to increase the long-term stability of the streams. The District and our partners work to implement the recommended projects and monitor their success. Examples of such projects include buffer plantings, protection of sensitive and sediment attenuation areas, addition of large woody debris to select stream segments, and other projects that augment the stream’s natural ability to reach stable equilibrium with the surrounding landscape and any existing, past landuse modifications.
SPOTLIGHT – Current Watershed Assessments and Projects
Flower Brook Subwatershed
In 2012, following a study that found consistently high levels of human and bovine fecal coliform bacteria in Flower Brook, the stream was listed by Vermont DEC as “impaired” – meaning that it does not meet state water quality standards. That designation, combined with a 2006 study that identified high levels of erosion and high sensitivity to land use changes along certain sections of Flower Brook, has brought attention to the Flower Brook watershed in general. The District has been working through their Agronomy and Conservation Assistance Program (ACAP), among others, to decrease bacterial inputs to the brook and has seen a substantial decrease in bacteria in the upstream areas of the watershed.
Water Quality Monitoring Shows Results
In 2015, the District partnered with Vermont DEC to complete an Illicit Discharge study, a Septic Needs Assessment, and Stormwater Master Planning in the Village of Pawlet. These assessments will lead to projects aimed at improving water quality in Flower Brook through a holistic multi-pronged approach – capturing animal inputs, human inputs, and stormwater inputs. As projects are identified and implemented, monitoring of water quality will continue in the hope of capturing the resulting improvements in water quality conditions in Flower Brook, eventually leading to the removal of its ‘impaired’ status.