Missisquoi River Basin Association

A Vermont/Quebec Watershed Alliance
in the Lake Champlain Basin
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MRBA Watershed Update

Newsletter Fall 2008

2008 Field Work

 The volunteer field season began with 2 workdays at Rock River Acres farm, owned by Adrian and Marie Rainville in Franklin. The total project involved 2400 trees and willows planted on approximately 8 acres along the Rock River. Volunteers, including a group from Ben and Jerry's, planted nearly 1100 trees and willows on Friday April 25 and Saturday April 26. The project established a buffer between the river and pasture and cropland through the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP).

 On Friday, May 2, about 60 students and staff from Fairfield Elementary School and other community volunteers planted 180 trees at the Boomhower Farm in Fairfield. With students from the 5-8th grades, they were able to form work teams and plant the trees in the buffer established between a recently created floodplain corridor along Wanzer Brook and adjacent pasture and cropland. With the large and productive group of volunteers finishing the work quickly, there was time for students to explore the stream and learn about how the floodplain restoration was accomplished at the farm. Funding and support for the project was provided through VT ANR River Management Program, USDA and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. A VYCC crew accomplished earlier floodplain revegetation in April.

 On Saturday, May 3, MRBA volunteers planted 300 trees on the Kane Farm in Sheldon. The site was along the Missisquoi River and established a buffer between the eroding riverbank and cropland. With only 9 volunteers on a rainy day, the group was able to plant the 300 trees in 3 hours. This site was also a CREP funded project.

 On May 10th, about 20 community volunteers planted 300 trees on the Archambault property in Montgomery. This site along the Trout River was also in part a floodplain restoration project funded through VT ANR River Management Program, US Fish and Wildlife Service, plus VT Agency of Agriculture and USDA through CREP. The trees were planted to establish a buffer between the restored floodplain and adjacent pasture. A VYCC crew accomplished earlier floodplain revegetation in April. Sunny weather made for easier work conditions, but required volunteers to water the new plantings with buckets drawn from the river.

 On July 30th, a stabilized outlet was installed at the Choinere Farm in Highgate. At the end of a tile drain pipe, water had scoured out a small gully near the Rock River. The scour hole was dug out with hand tools, geotextile fabric was secured as a liner over the smoothed surface, and crushed stone was placed on top. A small energy-dissipating basin was formed with a stone-lined outlet. This should reduce the loss of soil eroded from this site. Funding was provided through a VT Agency of Agriculture demonstration grant to which MRBA was a partner along with 7 Rock River watershed landowners.

 On August 13, a volunteer work crew interseeded cover crops in a cornfield rented by Bernard and Louis Rainville in Highgate, adjacent to a tributary of the Rock River. In portions of the field that had been subject to gully erosion or poor germination, the soil surface was prepared by "scratching" with rakes, then buckwheat and triticale was broadcast on the ground using a hand seeder. Some areas were mulched with hay for additional protection. The seedings grew successfully, reducing soil erosion from this site, and the corn will be harvested for grain this fall. This work is in support of the Friends of Missisquoi Bay, Rock River Sediment Abatement Project.

 Two projects are still possible for November, weather permitting. Additional stabilized outlets may be installed at the Choinere Farm and Rock River Acres. These projects are intended to stem gully erosion located at tile drain outlets near the Rock River and a tributary in Highgate and Franklin.

 We're already beginning to look ahead to 2009 field season projects. Please contact Cynthia at the MRBA office (933-9009) or myself (933-8336) with project ideas or if you would like to assist in completing projects this fall. Thanks to all the volunteers who committed time and energy this year.

- Brian Jerose, MRBA Technical Advisor

'Wild and Scenic River' Designation for the Missisquoi River

 The bill to study the Upper Missisquoi and Trout Rivers for possible inclusion into the National Park Service's Wild & Scenic Rivers program has been passed by the House of Representatives and is currently on the Senate's docket, having been passed through committee.

 With an election looming, it's nearly impossible to speculate on when our bill will pass through the Senate and on to the President's desk. It's reasonably safe to say it's only a matter of time, and hopefully a short time.

 We owe our thanks to Rep. Peter Welch, Sen. Patrick Leahy, and Sen. Bernie Sanders, as well as the highly capable members of their staffs, both in Vermont and Washington. Also the crew at American Rivers has been instrumental in guiding this legislation through the halls of congress, and have made both John and myself feel most at home in the nation's capital.

 It is vital that all MRBA members get up to speed on what Wild & Scenic does and does not do. Some misinformation has already surfaced on the airwaves, but thankfully the overwhelming response to our recent round of publicity has been positive. If there is one federal agency that has done the most good for this nation without doing harm to others it is the National Park Service.

- Chris O'Shea

Geomorphic Assessment

 Our geomorphic project this year focused on the Black Creek watershed located primarily in the Fairfield and Sheldon areas. Thanks to a grant from the ANR River Management Program, MRBA was able to hire Montpelier engineering firm The Johnson Company to undertake a Phase 2 geomorphic assessment on 20 reaches along Black Creek and its tributaries Dead Creek, Fairfield River, Kings Hill Brook and an unnamed tributary to Kings Hill Brook.

 Despite a slow start due to all the wet weather this summer, The Johnson Company's 2-person field team spent over 20 days either walking the tribs or canoeing Black Creek to collect data. MRBA will host a public forum in early 2009 for The Johnson Company to present the findings of its field assessment.

- Cynthia Scott


A Watershed-wide Educational Initiative for the Missisquoi River Basin

 There are 14 elementary schools, 3 high schools, and 1 technical/career center within the boundaries of the Missisquoi watershed. The goal was to get Bugworks into the 14 elementary schools at the 5th or 6th grade level. By the end of the 2007-8 school year, Bugworks was accepted into the following schools: Troy Elementary, Jay/Westfield School, Swanton Elementary, Highgate Elementary, Fairfield Elementary, Bakersfield Elementary, Sheldon Elementary, Enosburg High, Enosburg Elementary, Montgomery Elementary, Richford Elementary, and Berkshire Elementary. These 12 educational institutions add up to an impressive tally comprised of three groups of people who will never be able to look at a stream, pond or river in the same way again.

1. Students - 426 (mainly grades 5 and 6, with a 4th grade group and a highschool Environmental Science class)
2. Teachers - 24
3. Paraeducators - 32

 By utilizing the simple idea that "Trout are made of Tree Leaves", and showing them the macroinvertebrates/bugs that are the links in the food chain between the leaves and the trout, it is easy for people to understand the connection between trees and fish. I can then explain why it is so important to maintain forested riparian buffers in our watershed. Almost without exception, every student was either a fisherman/fisherwoman, or knew someone in their family who was one. This highlights the importance of protecting this resource and educating people as to the true relationship between trees and fish. Trout are not raised in hatcheries and fed worms as many seem to think. Trout and other native fish are part of the native and natural food web that is part of our watershed's heritage. They can only be supported by their natural food sources.

 I'd sincerely like to thank all of you who have helped me make this program unique and I believe a very successful one in its first year. Special thanks for funding from Jay Peak Resort.

- John Little

Pilot-Based Incentive Project

 Greetings from the world of Nutrient Management along the Missisquoi River. We are progressing very well this fall with the nice weather, which always makes life much easier to deal with.

 Wanted to inform folks about a project that many of our Franklin County Dairy Farmers are participating in. It is called "Pilot Based Incentives for Agriculture" and implemented by the University of Vermont and Winrock International. The goal is to test the use of performance-based incentives to improve the cost effectiveness of agricultural pollution control without burdening farm profitability.

 The focus for this project is the Phosphorus Index (P index), which is a tool being accepted by Federal and State guidelines for controlling the potential of phosphorus to enter the surface waters of the State. Many factors are used in this tool to determine the potential for phosphorus field runoff. These factors are: Soil Test Phosphorus and Aluminum levels, soil type, amount of phosphorus in the manure and fertilizer, time of year and incorporation method of manure applications, slope of the field, crop grown, and the buffer width between manure application and stream.

 These factors give the farmer much more flexibility in the manure application rates. Many soil samples can be very high in phosphorus levels and still have manure applied to them if the P index has a low to high rating. The high rating can have phosphorus applied only to what that crop grown will remove. An excessive rating will not allow any phosphorus to be applied.

 This is where the Pilot based Incentive project comes into the picture. The farmer participating will set a base P index with what is currently being done. Then the farmer is offered options for reducing the P index and an incentive payment for the amount of reduction accomplished by lowering the P index rating. Work has been done on the cost side of implementing these P index lowering management changes and applied by way of the amount that the P index is reduced.

 If a farmer finds that the P index rating is low in many of the fields then another part of the incentive payment kicks in. This part will do a Stewardship Payment which rewards the farmer for a job well done.

 This program is in its infancy and is being adopted by some farmers in Franklin County. The P index has been researched here in Vermont, as well as other parts of the Country, and has shown that the results obtained are accurate. As we progress in our efforts to improve water quality, the P index will be a valuable tool in the agricultural portion of improving water quality.

- Paul C Stanley

Water Samplers for MRBA

 For the fourth year in a row, a group of dedicated volunteers has completed a season of collecting water samples from sites located in Franklin and Orleans Counties. Volunteers collected samples every two weeks between May and mid-October at 21 sites. The samples were then sent to the Vermont State Laboratory to be analyzed for phosphorus, turbidity and nitrogen. Some of the sites were tributaries flowing into the main stem of the Missisquoi River and some were on the main stem itself.

 We are building a very important body of data to be used to determine stream health, river health and to pinpoint problem areas on the river. The results of the water sampling have already encouraged some residents who live along the river to complete projects in order to ameliorate runoff.

 This year was particularly difficult to sample due to the high level of the water. There was so much rain in July that it was sometimes hard to get into the stream flow to collect the samples!

 Many thanks to Lilla Lumbra for transporting the samples every other week from Montgomery to Waterbury. She is a very important part of the group of volunteers that make the whole project happen. Thanks also to all the volunteers who take samples and then transport them collections to the MRBA collection sites.

 We are also very grateful for funding from the LaRosa lab, for a Vermont Watershed Grant, and from Jay Peak Resort to make this project possible.

 We will be holding a public meeting on Sun., Nov. 23 at 4 pm at the Enosburgh Emergency Services Building on VT Route 105 (across the street from Hannafords and McDonalds) to present the preliminary results of this year's sampling efforts. Please join us!

- Wendy Scott

7-Town Conservation Effort

 A recent gathering of people representing seven towns in the Northern Greens came together at the end of September to start a discussion about the place where we live, what it means to us, and how we might be able to protect the parts of it we love. It was very clear from this initial conversation that there was much to care about and much that our communities gain from our open spaces and large blocks of forest. The goal of this meeting was to gauge and engage the people who live here and discover what is important to people about the forested landscape.

 The Enosburgh Conservation Commission hosted this meeting and asked representatives from different areas of the conservation world to attend and help facilitate. The framework of the day was what one participant called a "cosmic zoom". We started out at a very local level, next we got input from another local organization doing similar things in their region, we next zoomed out a little further to look at the connections to the wider world through wildlife habitat corridors, and then further still with Two Countries One Forest for a more global picture. After dinner we once again put our microscopic eye back on our own place.

 Following are some of the comments and thoughts that emerged from the meeting:

 We want: a good place to live, learn, and earn a living; keep a working economy (agriculture and forestry); be self-sufficient and live in a sustainable community; be stewards of the land; leave a healthy habitat with abundant wildlife for our children; cleaner water; lots of trees; keep our forests intact and prevent fragmentation and parcelization; create a web of wildlife corridors; expand and enhance human connections to the land; produce our own energy (wind, wood, solar, and hydro); keep land accessible and discourage posting; recognize the connection of the land and the local economy; maintain our way of life.

 Threats include: loss of community; changing population; global warming; overworked and over extended lives; denial of potential loss; insidious development creep; kids don't get outside; high taxes; shifting values; fewer hands on the land; invasive plants and animals; lack of long term thinking; no sense of the big picture; lack of reaching beyond the self.

 Solutions: engage the rest of us; have conversations with others about what they care about; identify the areas in your community that are important and protect them; protect areas that connect these larger forest blocks including rivers and their riparian buffers.

 This was a small meeting with only a few people from each of the seven towns: Bakersfield, Belvidere, Enosburgh, Fletcher, Montgomery, Richford, and Waterville, as well as some representatives from Canada in the Sutton Mt range that connects with our forests in Richford. This was just the first such meeting and another is being planned for early December. We are hoping to reach out to more people. Most people present at the first meeting promised to bring someone with them to the next gathering. We would like to see more of our neighbors that use the land at the next event. We would like to see the loggers, hunters and anglers, riders of horses, snowmobiles, Mt bikes and 4wheelers. We would like more birders, hikers, and others who simply care that the forest is there to come and help us move forward.

 The forest economy is critical to the way of life in these seven towns. The annual statewide contribution of the timber industry and forest related tourism and recreation generates almost $1.5 billion. The land base in the seven towns' area is primarily forest with some agricultural land in the valleys. We have a short window of opportunity to place a value on our landscape and way of life. Fragmentation and parcelization have been recognized as the greatest threat to our Northern Forests. In a recent survey conducted by Rural Vermont it was found that 97% of Vermonters surveyed indicated it is important to them that ecologically important lands and habitats be protected. This was echoed at the seven towns meeting. Contiguous forest is important because it supports populations of wide-ranging animals, supports access to an appreciation of Vermont's forested landscape, provides forest management opportunities for sustainable harvesting of forest products, and helps maintain air and water quality.

 We, the people who live here, are the only ones that can direct our future. We can define what is important to us and our communities, and we can act to protect what we love. If interested, please contact Nancy Patch of the Enosburgh Conservation Commission to be put on the mailing list for information and notice of events, nancpatch@earthlink.net.

- Nancy Patch, 933-2642


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Missisquoi River Basin Association  9534 Route 36 - Unit 5  East Fairfield, VT   05448
(office) 802.827.3360  (cell) 802.752.7247, or email mrba@pshift.com