About Water Quality & River Planning

Water is an essential part of our lives.  Poor water quality can negatively affect drinking water, household use, irrigation, recreation, fishing, commerce, and our environment.  Our waterways can be degraded by non-point source pollution, shoreline development, sedimentation, failing septic systems, poor agricultural and silvicultural practices, fuel spills, and invasive species. Nearly all of these problems can be avoided by proper planning and basic prevention measures.

The region is covered by a network of rivers and streams running between hills and mountains, including the Black River, Williams River and the Mill Brook.  The rivers and streams all eventually feed into the Connecticut River which runs along the eastern border of the region.  Planning for the region’s watersheds requires an understanding of how the rivers are moving and changing over time.  In 2011 several watersheds were impacted by the flash flooding that followed Tropical Storm Irene’s extreme rainfall – particularly the Black River, Williams River and Mill Brook.

SWCRPC works with town, state and federal governments, and other regional organizations to provide planning assistance, technical support, and additional resources on a variety of water resource planning initiatives, including but not limited to the following:

Regional Clean Water Advisory Committee (CWAC)

The Clean Water Advisory Committee (CWAC) kicked-off their first meeting in November, 2016.  The group consists of Southern Windsor County Regional Planning Commission staff, our VT DEC Watershed Coordinator, and representatives from member municipalities and other watershed stakeholders.  Members meet on a bi-monthly basis as participants in the Tactical Basin 10 Planning and implementation process.  Our mission is to identify and prioritize local watershed projects that will improve and protect water quality.

For more information, contact Chris Yurek.

Vermont Clean Water Act (VCWA)

The Vermont Clean Water Act (VCWA) was signed into law on June 17, 2015.  The SWCRPC, through a grant from the VT Department of Environmental Conservation, will assist with the implementation of the Act.  Implementation activities will focus on improving water quality and assisting municipalities in meeting the requirements of the Act

The SWCRPC will work with municipal staff and boards to provide information about the requirements for municipalities triggered by the VCWA and also work with them on options such as stronger municipal protections against flood hazards and river corridor erosion, stormwater master planning, and other town plan or zoning changes to improve water quality. SWCRPC staff will update fluvial erosion hazard/river corridor maps for the towns and assist them with compiling existing information to use in developing implementation plans under the Municipal Road General Permit (MRGP).  As part of DEC’s Tactical Basin Planning program, the SWCRPC will work closely with DEC staff to facilitate municipal participation in the development of the update to the Basin 10 Tactical Basin Plan.

The following fact sheets help illustrate the requirements of the VCWA:

The Agency of Natural Resources is sponsoring a “Brown Bag Lunch Series” in person or online.  Please see our calendar for upcoming lectures and click here for more information.

In November 2015, the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources released a new website that focuses on the new Clean Water Initiative called “Clean Water Vermont”.  It reflects an exciting and growing collaboration among municipalities, state agencies, local and regional partners, farmers, businesses and the public to take action that will safeguard the public’s access to clean and safe water throughout the state.  The website includes information about Act 64 and its implementation, the “Lake Champlain Plan” and more – http://cleanwater.vermont.gov/

Mill Brook Watershed Initiative

Funded by the High Meadows Fund

Mill Brook Watershed Team from Peregrine Productions LLC on Vimeo.

The Mill Brook Watershed Resiliency Project, encompassing the entire Mill Brook Watershed (which is contained within the towns of Windsor, West Windsor, and Reading), capitalized on the recent completion of the Phase II Stream Geomorphic Assessment (SGA).  The Southern Windsor County Regional Planning Commission (SWCRPC) and the Ottauquechee Natural Resources Conservation District (ONRCD) led the project.

The Project Team consisted of SWCRPC, ONRCD, the American Precision Museum (APM), Windsor, West Windsor, Reading, and the VT DEC Watershed Coordinator and River Management Engineer.  The team utilized the Phase II SGA report and its recommendations to improve flood resiliency in the Mill Brook watershed through increasing access to the river corridor and floodplain areas, improving bank stability, and conducting extensive public education about flood resiliency.  Concurrent with these activities, ONRCD held public education sessions with their stream table.   The goal of the public educational sessions were to educate people about river dynamics, dynamic equilibrium conditions, and methods to achieve it.

In July of 2016, the APM hosted a teacher training institute allowing teachers to model a watershed, develop “what if” scenarios for community presentations, and learn how to engage students in ongoing watershed activities such as water quality monitoring and stream bank (riparian) plantings.  Finally, the Project Team implemented a number of the projects identified during the prioritization process identified above, including dam removals and buffer plantings.

Basin Planning

  • Basin 11 Tactical Basin Plan.  Prepared by the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources in December 2015.  Covers the land area where water feeds into the West, Williams and Saxtons Rivers.  The Plan provides information about the river watersheds, outlines the issues facing them and gives recommendations on how to move forward.
  • Basin 10 Planning.  Information about basin planning for land areas drained by the Black and Ottauquechee Rivers from the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources

Watershed Planning

Black River Corridor Plan.

Compiled in 2011 by SWCRPC.  This plan brings together technical data on the condition of the Black River and its tributaries with local land use planning and regulations, focusing primarily on hazard mitigation and improving water quality.

Black River Phase 1 and 2 Stream Geomorphic Assessments.

Prepared for SWCRPC between 2007 and 2010.  In 2007, a Phase 1 Stream Geomorphic Assessment (“SGA”) was carried out accordance with Vermont’s Agency of Natural Resources protocols. The report divided the Black River and its tributaries into numbered reaches (sections of river). The Phase 1 report prioritized stream sections to be evaluated in the Phase 2 SGA which was completed in 2009.  An addendum was added in 2010 for the Patch and Buffalo Brooks which feed into the Ludlow Lakes.

Hubbard Brook Phase 1 Stream Geomorphic Assessment.

Prepared for SWCRPC in 2008 by Fitzgerald Environmental Associates.

Mill Brook Phase II Stream Geomorphic Assessment.

The Mill Brook runs from its headwaters in Reading through West Windsor and Windsor to the Connecticut River.  The Corridor Plan is the result of Phase I and Phase II Stream Geomorphic Assessments conducted during 2013 and 2014 which examined individual reaches of the Mill Brook for flood vulnerabilities and physical and biological conditions.  The 2015 report contains detailed information on the health of the Mill Brook and opportunities to promote flood resiliency within the watershed.  For more information, please contact Chris Yurek.

Flooding, Fluvial Erosion Hazards and River Corridors

Resources for Towns

River Corridor, Floodplain & Shoreland Protection Programs, Biennial Report, Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, Watershed Management Division, January 2017

The Emergency Relief and Assistance Fund (ERAF) Rule created financial incentives to adopt river corridor and floodplain protection bylaws.  For more information, click here.

For more information, visit our flood resilience webpage.

Exotic Invasives

  • Japanese Knotweed Brochure.  Created 2008 by BRAT and SWCRPC.  Information about the invasive species known as Japanese Knotweed which is commonly found along our waterways.

Drinking Water Source Protection Technical Assistance Opportunity

The VT DEC’s Groundwater and Drinking Water Protection Division has on staff a Source Protection Specialist to assist towns and RPC’s with source protection and groundwater reclassification.  Click here for more information.

Low Impact Development (LID) and stormwater management

  • LID brochure. Created 2008 by Addison County Regional Planning Commission and SWCRPC.
  • Managing stormwater and improving local water quality in Springfield.  Booklet for local residents.  Created 2010 by SWCRPC.  Compilation of affordable and achievable strategies for managing stormwater around the home in a rural and small town environment.  Also contains advice on how efforts around the home and in the yard can improve local water quality
  • LID Town Resource Pack. Created 2010 by SWCRPC.  The pack is an introduction to LID for towns and provides resources for application of LID in the region:
  • LID Tools for Vermont Towns. Created 2007 by SWCRPC and Addison County Regional Planning Commission. Information on how to incorporate LID into Town Plans and local regulations.
  • Local LID examples and Further Resources. Created 2010 by SWCRPC as part of the LID Town Resource Pack.  Examples of Vermont and New Hampshire LID projects which could be relevant for the region and links to further LID resources.

Green Infrastructure

GreenInfrastructureDiagramGreen Infrastructure is a broad term that can have many different meanings. The Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation defines it as “a wide range of multi-functional, natural and semi-natural landscape elements located within, around, and between developed areas at all spatial scales.” At a large scale Green Infrastructure can be thought of as a system of interconnected landscape elements (e.g. wildlife habitat, wetlands, surface water) that provide ecosystem services such as water purification, flood resilience, and stormwater management. At a smaller scale Green infrastructure is often site specific and can be thought of as minimizing a development’s impacts. It can be implemented through Low Impact Development or Green Stormwater Infrastructure.

GreenInfrastructureRainDiagrams1and2Development in areas that provide ecosystem services can often result in a diminished capacity to provide those services. Development in floodplains reduces their capacity to mitigate flooding, development in wetlands reduces their capacity to filter water, and the addition of impervious surfaces and the development of steep slopes increases the amount of stormwater runoff resulting in higher peak flows and flooding levels and increased erosion. These services are extremely important and need to be preserved. Additionally, Green Infrastructure can provide many benefits aside from those commonly identified as ecosystem services, including increased property values, enhanced recreational opportunities, and the creation of jobs.

For more information, visit the Department of Environmental Conservation website.

A green infrastructure toolkit has been created to assist Vermont municipalities. Click here for more information.

Springfield Transfer Station Stormwater Treatment Infrastructure

SWCRPC, in partnership with the Ottauquechee Natural Resources Conservation District (ONRCD) and the Town of Springfield, are currently working to implement stormwater treatment infrastructure at the Springfield Transfer Station, which directly abuts the main stem of the Black River. The project involves installing a series of subsurface infiltration chambers, eliminating impervious surfaces where possible, and enhancing the existing riparian buffer with rigorous, native trees and shrubs. These BMP’s will work in concert to reduce Total Nitrogen, Total Phosphorus, and Total Suspended Solid discharges by 98%.  Construction is due Summer 2018.

For more information, please contact Chris Yurek.

West Windsor Volunteer Fire Department Dam Removal

The SWCRPC is currently working on removing the concrete block dam located behind the West Windsor Volunteer Fire Department. The project will reduce flood risk and frequency of over-bank flooding events, reestablish 26 miles of aquatic passage for native populations of Eastern Brook Trout and White Sucker, naturalize the sediment transport regime, reduce thermal stress, and provide an enhanced state of dynamic equilibrium.  Construction is due Summer 2018.

For more information, please contact Chris Yurek.

Municipal Roads Grants-In-Aid Grant Program

In an effort to provide financial assistance for compliance with the Municipal Roads General Permit (MRGP), the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (VT DEC) established the Grants-in-Aid program. This is a noncompetitive, participatory program offered to municipalities to implement road drainage Best Management Practices (BMP’s) in accordance with MRGP standards. This program requires 20% municipal match in the form of either cash or in-kind.

For more information, please contact Cindy Ingersoll.

Ecosystem Restoration Project Grants

The Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (VT DEC) is currently accepting applications under the Clean Water Initiative Program’s (CWIP) Ecosystem Restoration Grant Program (ERP). ERP is a pot of funding intended to address sediment and nutrient pollution in Vermont’s surface water resources. This is a competitive grant program that will fund preliminary engineering, final engineering, or construction projects. There is no funding cap per application, with the exception of equipment grants which max out at $100,000 per application. Examples of eligible projects could include, but are not limited to stormwater treatment infrastructure projects, dam removals, streambank stabilization projects, purchase of high efficiency street sweepers, vactor trucks, or hydro seeders, or floodplain restoration projects.

Applications are now received on a rolling basis.  For the most current deadline, please visit our calendar and grants webpage. For more information, please contact Chris Yurek.

Clean Water Block Grant

The SWCRPC is currently administering the Clean Water Block Grant under contract to the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (VT DEC). This is a pot of $1,500,000 for state-wide water quality improvement projects, $1,350,000 of which is to be used for project implementation. This program requires 20% municipal match which can be provided in the form of cash or in-kind services. These funds are intended to fund final design, design-build, or construction projects that reduce sediment and nutrient pollution in Vermont’s surface water resources.

For more information, please contact Cindy Ingersoll or Chris Yurek.