News

Floodplains conserved in Hancock, Stockbridge

The White River Partnership (WRP), Vermont River Conservancy (VRC), Vermont River Management Program, and 4 private landowners have conserved 41 acres of floodplain along the White River in Hancock and Stockbridge.

The 14.2-acre Hancock project site is located just upstream of Hancock village, and just downstream of a 15.4-acre floodplain conserved in 2016.  Tropical Storm Irene flood waters washed across and deposited large amounts of sediment on these hay fields, highlighting the need to protect the fields for floodplain function.  In sum the 2 Hancock project sites protect active floodplain along 3,300 feet of the White River.

The 26.8-acre Stockbridge project site is located just upstream of Gaysville village and, unlike the Hancock project site, sits 30 feet above the White River.  Instead of water spreading out across the fields, flooding from Tropical Storm Irene scoured 138,000 cubic yards of material from the parcel’s streambanks.  This catastrophic erosion highlighted the parcel’s vulnerability and the need to protect it from future development.

The floodplain conservation projects prohibit future development and compensate the landowners for flood-related property loss.  Allowing the river to reconnect to these critical floodplains will reduce the speed and erosive power of flood waters before they reach the Hancock and Gaysville villages.

The WRP received a Vermont Ecosystem Restoration Program (ERP) grant to work with VRC on acquiring the permanent conservation easement and to work with a Vermont Youth Conservation Corps crew and community volunteers to restore 50-100 feet of native trees along the length of the fields.

Since 2008 the WRP has worked with the ERP, VRC, and Vermont Land Trust to complete 9 floodplain conservation projects, conserving 148.8 acres on river-front properties in Granville, Hancock, Randolph, Rochester, Royalton, and Stockbridge.

The WRP has received ERP funds to work with VRC and a private landowner to complete a 10th floodplain protection project in 2018: conserving 9 acres on the White River in Gaysville.

Monitoring White River crayfish

Crayfish capture people’s attention: they are abundant, yet secretive and somewhat elusive, and just the right amount of scary to pick up. For all of these reasons, they have been a staple of the White River Partnership’s watershed education program since its inception in 2010.

Through the WRP crayfish unit, students and teachers learn about the important role crayfish play in the river’s food web and how the food web might be impacted by the proliferation of non-native crayfish species found in many parts of the watershed. Students also learn how to identify White River crayfish species and put those skills to use out at the river.  It’s pretty clear that students love looking for crayfish in the name of science!

Another exciting aspect of the WRP program is that the field data collected by students doesn’t just end up on a shelf. Instead it is shared with Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation scientists who use the data to enhance their understanding of crayfish distribution throughout the state. The WRP program also serves as an early-detection system since the state is constantly on the lookout for the arrival of new crayfish species. The 2017 data sharing component is being funded by a generous grant from the state’s Grant-In-Aid program.

Follow this link to learn more about crayfish and other WRP watershed education units.

Help build a river access trail

You are invited to help the White River Partnership, Vermont River Conservancy, and Town of Sharon build a river access trail on Sunday, June 11 from 2-4pm. The event will be at the new Broad Brook Access in Sharon.

Volunteers should meet at the Broad Brook Cemetery (1106 River Road) and dress to get dirty in long sleeves, long pants, and closed-toed shoes. Gloves, loppers, shovels, pick-mattocks, and light snacks will be provided – feel free to bring your own tools if you have them.

The Broad Brook Access is Sharon’s newest river access site located just downstream of the Broad Brook confluence with the White River.  This 10-acre field, located on both sides of the Broad Brook Cemetery, was recently acquired from the landowner by the Vermont River Conservancy; conserved with a permanent easement protecting open space and public access; and donated to the Town of Sharon in March 2017.

The site has long been used for informal fishing access to the mouth of Broad Brook, which is one of the most important trout spawning streams in the lower White River.  The June 11 event will build a river access trail through the existing riparian buffer to insure safe, reliable access for fishermen, paddlers, tubers, and more. Formalizing river access also allows the Broad Brook Access to be added to the online White River Water Trail map, an emerging network of publicly-accessible recreation sites along the White River.

The June 11 event is funded by a Vermont Community Foundation grant, and is part of the WRP’s Second Sunday Event series – 5 opportunities to get involved in the WRP’s work to improve the long-term health of the White River and its watershed! For more information, follow this link.

Volunteer willow harvest event

The WRP is seeking volunteers to harvest live willow stakes on Sunday, April 9 from 2-4pm. The event is at Hurricane Flats Farm in South Royalton (975 South Windsor Street).

Volunteers should dress to work in wet and muddy conditions. The WRP will provide gloves, a few loppers, and light snacks – feel free to bring your own loppers if you have them.

Willows are native shrubs that grow along Vermont’s rivers. Live, dormant willow stakes that are 18-20” long and ½-1” in diameter can be pounded into the face of riverbanks where they will set roots and grow quickly. WRP volunteers will plant the willow stakes harvested on Saturday along the White River in Bethel and Granville this spring.

The WRP plants willows in the face of riverbanks and other native trees along the top of riverbanks to increase benefits to both the river and also to property owners. In the short-term fast-growing willows planted on riverbanks help stabilize soils while other vegetation takes hold. Over time the willow roots intertwine with roots of native trees planted along the top of the riverbanks, creating a dense underground network that makes the riverbank more resistant to erosion. Above ground the willows and other native trees improve water quality by filtering pollutants out of water running through the vegetation; improve habitat by providing food and cover for fish and wildlife; and reduce flood damages by slowing flood waters and capturing debris.Hurricane Flats spring 2013 (2)Hurricane Flats1 7-2-13

The WRP depends on volunteers to help us plant willows and other native trees along the river each spring. Stay tuned for opportunities to help plant 3,000 stems along the White River in early-May!

Photo caption: The photos were taken 2 months apart at the WRP’s Hurricane Flats Farm streambank restoration project: in May 2013 (after planting willows) and in July 2013 (after the willows set roots and sprouted).

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