In the Lake Champlain Basin, water defines our landscape. The erosive force of water carves out steep drainages along our mountain faces, adding definition to the Green Mountains’ most iconic peaks. It forms the valleys we inhabit, where the water can spread out, slow down, and lazily meander from one side of a valley to the other. As water continuously shapes our earth, it bends and winds and bows and twists and crooks and seeps. It’s natural, messy, and doing exactly what it should be. Despite this fact, much work was done in the last century to change the way water moves across our landscape. Streams were buried, straightened, dredged, drained, rerouted, walled, dammed, culverted, and “cleaned up” of rock, gravel, wood, and beavers to accommodate downtowns, houses, roads, railroads, farm fields, and aesthetic preferences. In fact, it was the Conservation District and Soil Conservation Service that provided the funding, engineering, and machinery to do much of this work throughout the state. And although these alterations were made with our communities’ best interest in mind, part of the legacy of this landscape change is unstable streams that erode more and provide less habitat. Today, the District is working with local landowners to restore some of these altered waterways back to a more natural state to improve water quality and create habitat. In the fall of 2019, the District worked with Peter Hutchins, a dairy farmer near the Canadian border in Berkshire, to restore nearly 500 ft. of a badly eroding tributary to the Pike River. The stream, straightened decades ago, suffered a massive bank failure in the spring of 2018 after years of undercutting had compromised the stability of the slope. With funding from the Vermont Dept. of Env. Conservation and Agency of Ag., the District hired Fitzgerald Environmental Associates and EcoSolutions to create miniature floodplains, grade slopes, and widen the stream bank to prevent further excess erosion. Thanks to Peter and Lorie Hutchins and our partners, this project will prevent 453 pounds of phosphorus from entering the Missisquoi Bay!
- by Brodie Haenke, Franklin County NRCD Conservation Specialist