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Water Matters to Us in Shelburne, Hinesburg and Charlotte

Posted by  Thursday, 27 Apr 2017 11:38 PM
FROM PRESS RELEASE

 A group of about seventy citizens and town officials from Hinesburg, Charlotte and Shelburne gathered at the latest Water Matters event Thursday March 30 at the Hinesburg Town Hall.

“The purpose of the Water Matters series is to raise awareness about LaPlatte River watershed pollution concerns among the three towns who share it,” says Jean Kiedaisch, a member of Responsible Growth Hinesburg, one of the event co-sponsors along with Lewis Creek Association and the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission.

According to a 2011 report from the LaPlatte Watershed Partnership, our watershed includes approximately one hundred and seventy four miles of river channel and tributaries that drain a fifty-three square mile area mainly in Hinesburg, Charlotte and Shelburne before discharging into Shelburne Bay.

Act 64, Vermont’s Clean Water Act, regulates practices and funds initiatives to help clean up Lake Champlain and the rivers and tributaries that flow toward it.  Of greatest concern is stormwater (from rain or snowmelt) that drains from our parking lots, roads, farm fields and lawns and the bacteria, phosphorous and sediment it contains, which can render lake water undrinkable, unfishable and unswimmable.

In June 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released phosphorous pollution limits for Lake Champlain called TMDLs (total maximum daily loads), for twelve Vermont segments of Lake Champlain, including Shelburne Bay.  The TMDLs help define standards where to best concentrate efforts of pollution reduction. When a waterway becomes impaired by these standards, it is federally required that a state takes action.  It is commonly accepted that it is far less costly and less dangerous to human, pet, and aquatic health to take action before a waterway becomes impaired. 

The meeting showcased two tools which illustrate how to prioritize clean-up efforts of watersheds, and a grassroots initiative at CVU.

The first tool we learned about, the Clean Water Roadmap, was explained by Neil Kamman of the Vermont Department of Conservation.  The interactive web-based tool, said Kamman, has multi-functions and layers which include identification of Vermont watershed areas and their baseline total phosphorous rates based on 25 years of testing; best conservation opportunities;  a soil water assessment tool which looks at how landscape affects water quality; and “reasonable assurance scenarios”, where a user can plug in a project and see what the result might be. 

Krista Hoffsis, the program coordinator at the Lewis Creek Association, and a Charlotte resident, then presented the more local LaPlatte Watershed Water Quality Scorecard.  This map showed the monitoring results of stream pollution by the South Chittenden River Watch volunteers in Shelburne, Hinesburg and Charlotte, along McCabe’s, Thorp, Kimball and Holmes Brooks, with levels of water quality delineated by red, green and yellow. By showing “hot spots”, the map allows homeowners to see how their neighborhood directly affects the water that runs into the Lake.

The last presentation was from Marty Illick of Lewis Creek Association (LCA) who reviewed the Ahead of the Storm (AOTS) project, a grassroots initiative which showcases demonstration sites in Charlotte, Hinesburg and Shelburne which show how to help water sink into the ground rather than have it rush toward the lake, carrying phosphorous and sediment. 

Ahead of the Storm began in 2014 as a collaboration of LCA and concerned Charlotte citizens. With grants from the Department of Environmental Conservation and the Lake Champlain Basin Program, the program funds and promotes the implementation of optimal stormwater conservation practices (OCPs), designed to go above and beyond current state-mandated practices for abating the impacts of stormwater on our lands and water resources.

The fourteen demonstration sites include a library, schools, a nursery, a town garage, a farm, a wildlife refuge, a forest, single residences, and whole neighborhoods.

“The common thread of all the sites,” said Marty Illick, executive director of LCA, “is that they are viewable by the public…if we each learn to take care of our properties, we are in nice shape to prevent pollution, and to prevent the big costly fixes.”

Illick then introduced two Champlain Valley high school students, Molly Duncan and Mia O’Farrell, who, along with other students from Dave Trevithick’s Natural Resource class, worked with LCA and Engineers from Milone & MacBroom to identify stormwater issues on the CVU campus. With engineering guidance, the students developed preliminary designs that addressed six areas of concern. In addition, Milone & MacBroom provided a detailed OCP design to deal with stormwater impacts from a future campus greenhouse. The system will also store water for use in plant propagation. Duncan and O’Farrell presented a well organized power point which highlighted the project.

CVU holds a prominent position within the LaPlatte watershed. The 80-acre campus straddles two sub-watersheds, Patrick Brook, and a tributary that flows from the CVU fire pond directly to the LaPlatte. When stormwater is on the move across the CVU landscape, it takes its toll. It causes surface erosion of fields and walkways, and undermines parking lots and other hardscapes. Downstream of CVU, the increased water levels of the two streams leads to excessive bank erosion, bank failure, and when conditions are right, flooding. If soil moves, it inevitably ends up in the water.  This increases turbidity, which signals sedimentation and nutrient loading, which is bad for the aquatic life in the streams and Lake Champlain water quality.

The three S’s – slow it down, spread it out, and soak it in – are the new mantra for improved stormwater resiliency and water quality in the era of global warming and extreme weather events. 

What can each homeowner do?

  1. Support local initiatives like Lewis Creek Association, Responsible Growth Hinesburg and the Lake Iroquois Association
  2. Pick up your yard dog poop and along all public trails. 
  3. Find ways for water to sink in, slow down and spread into your soil - visit http://smartwaterways.org/
  4. Have your property BLUE certified https://mychamplain.net/blue-certification-program
  5. Contact Krista Hoffsis to see how you can support Ahead of the Storm This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  6. Reduce or eliminate use of harmful fertilizers

Helpful Links

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Hinesburg Community School
Learn about the Viking newsletter,
cafeteria menu, email address for staff,
department and team web pages,
calendar information, etc.

CVU
Learn about CVU activities and
programs, sports schedule, and more.

Carpenter Carse Library
Learn about library hours,
services, and online resources.

Hinesburg Town
Official Town of Hinesburg website.

Hinesburg Business
Local employment classifieds.

Connecting Youth
The official website of Connecting Youth
the Chittenden South community
based organization dedicated to creating
a safe and healthy environment
for young people.