This is the middle branch of the Williams River after Tropi­cal Storm Irene struck in August 2011. (Submitted photo)
This is the middle branch of the Williams River after Tropi­cal Storm Irene struck in August 2011. (Submitted photo)
Thursday March 21, 2013

SAXTONS RIVER -- A group dedicated to conserving land and water was awarded a grant to protect Vermont's water quality and conduct stream geomorphic assessments in Basin 11 and all of its sub-watersheds.

The Windham County Natural Resources Conservation District (WCNRCD), which uses education, demonstrations and technical assistance to promote its cause, learned a few weeks ago it was named the recipient of Ecosystem Restoration Program grant of $34,500 from the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation. This grant will provide the funds to conduct a Phase 1 SGA on approximately 100 miles of stream on the Williams River, which includes the Middle, South and Andover branches.

Basin 11 is located in the southeastern corner of Vermont and drains the eastern slopes of the Green Mountains, encompassing the three watersheds of the West, Williams and Saxtons rivers. Like much of southern Vermont, the Williams River was severely affected by Tropical Storm Irene but, nevertheless, is the only unassessed river remaining in the three principle sub-watersheds of Basin 11.

The assessment work has started and is expected to be completed by April of 2014. Results will be presented at public meetings once they are completed.

Windham Regional Commission (WRC) Director Chris Campany said the grant will fund an understanding of the science and physics underlying the behavior of rivers and streams.


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He said this knowledge is critical to town and regional planning.

"It will help everyone. Not only municipal officials, but also residents of towns to have a better understanding what a stream's behavior may be," he told the Reformer. "The shape and behavior of streams and rivers changed so much because of Irene -- and can any time there is major high-water event."

Campany said he hopes funding will continue coming in the future to benefit as many streams and rivers as possible.

According to WCNRCD Director Jolene Hamilton, the Phase 1 stream geomorphic assessment (or SGA) will provide an overview of the general physical characteristics of the Williams River watershed and assess channel response to both natural and human disturbances that have occurred over time. She said this information is essential, as WCNRCD plans water quality restoration projects, which provide guidance for collecting more comprehensive Phase 2 data, and is the first step toward the development of a river corridor plan for the Williams River.

A completed river corridor plan will identify, prioritize and develop implementation projects to stabilize and restore the river corridor based on the SGA findings, according to Hamilton.

The overall management plan for Basin 11 was completed and adopted in June 2008, and recommended the completion of SGAs as a priority project for water quality.

WCNRCD -- one of 14 Conservation Districts in the state of Vermont -- has previously partnered with the WRC and the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources to complete SGAs and Corridor Planning projects on the Saxtons, West, Rock and rivers and the Whetstone, Crosby and Ball Mountain brooks.

Domenic Poli can be reached at dpoli@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.