LCBP Casin' the Basin E-News



January 2013 | Issue #19

In This Issue

Study quantifies sediment loading from streambanks

Water Trail targets aquatic invasive species

Adirondack group assesses road salt impacts

Conservation district and local communities tackle stormwater

VRC increases public access to Winooski River

Communities highlight War of 1812, Civil War

Grants & research results, by the numbers (Fall 2012)

IJC Flooding Study Workgroup Plan of Study nears completion

Speaker series offers delicious lineup

New and improved website coming soon!

Vermont Farm Show, January 29-31

Teacher Professional Development opportunity, February 8


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Anyone who paddles on the Missisquoi River will notice severe erosion and undercutting of streambanks along many stretches of the river. And anyone who follows water quality issues on Lake Champlain will be aware of high phosphorus concentrations in Missisquoi Bay. For years, evidence has suggested that the two are related. Now a study conducted by the USDA National Sedimentation Laboratory (NSL), with funding from LCBP and VT ANR, confirms that a significant portion -- surprisingly high, to some observers -- of the sediment that enters the Lake from Missisquoi River is from streambank erosion.


The study, which applied the NSL's BSTEM (Bank-Stability and Toe-Erosion Model) tool to 30 sites on the main stem and tributaries in the U.S. portion of the Missisquoi River basin, found that 36% (36,000 tons) of the sediment that enters

Failed streambanks are a significant  

source of sediment and phosphorus 

in the Missisquoi River. 

Missisquoi Bay each year is from streambank erosion. Hitching a ride on sediment particles is one of the primary ways that nutrients find their way to surface waters, and the study found corresponding high phosphorus loading rates. The study concluded that thirty-six percent (52 tons) of all phosphorus entering the Bay in a year originate from streambank materials. NSL's work also confirmed the observations of other studies, noting that more than 50% of streambanks were failing in many of the reaches studied.


The US EPA has ranked sediment and nutrients among the leading water quality impairments in this area for more than two decades. Phosphorus concentrations in Missisquoi Bay are consistently above targets established by Vermont and Québec. Sediments can smother critical macroinvertebrate habitat on stream beds. Excess phosphorus contributes to unsightly and potentially toxic cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) blooms in Missisquoi Bay. Streambank erosion also can have economic consequences when farmers lose a portion of their land base.


The researchers also looked at three scenarios for mitigating stream bank erosion with stabilization treatments. Stabilization provided by established five-year-old trees could reduce phosphorus loadings by 29%, while grading banks to a 2-to-1 slope could result in a 14% reduction. A combination of both techniques could reduce loadings by 89%.

Link to the complete report:

Quantifying Sediment Loadings from Streambank Erosion in Selected Agricultural Watersheds Draining to Lake Champlain




As witnessed by the growing number of cars with canoes and kayaks strapped on their roofs, paddling is becoming increasingly popular in the Lake Champlain Basin. With this growth in the sport comes a greater risk of the spread of aquatic invasive species. The Northern Forest Canoe Trail (NFCT), a Waitsfield, VT-based organization, recently completed an initiative to help prevent the spread of invasives along its 740-mile paddling route through northern New England.     


The project, which focused on the portion of the trail within the Lake Champlain Basin, took a multipronged approach: developing a spread prevention message targeted specifically at paddlers that could be used nationwide; designing compelling signage; prioritizing areas for signs and installing signage along the Saranac River, Lake Champlain, and the Missisquoi River; and creating an online map tool showing known locations of aquatic invasive species along the Northern Forest Canoe Trail.      


Paddlers play a critical role in preventing spread of AIS. Photo: LCBP

A survey of existing AIS spread prevention messages aimed at paddlers around the country found that existing education efforts did not provide current detailed information. NFCT worked with the national Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force to incorporate the latest spread prevention protocols into the signs. Staff from towns along the rivers and the Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge and Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife helped identify the most effective locations for signage. The Adirondack Park Invasives Plant Program, the NY Department of Environmental Conservation, and the VT Department of Environmental Conservation provided data and helped with development of the interactive map. 





Monitoring equipment installed at 13 locations  in the Adirondacks will allow researchers to  assess the impact of road salts on water  quality. Photo: AWI.

The Adirondack Watershed Institute (AWI) of Paul Smith's College estimates that 160,000 metric tons of salt are applied to paved roads in the Adirondack Park each year. In an effort to monitor the effect of road salt on water quality, AWI purchased and installed water level and conductivity loggers at 13 sites in the Ausable, Boquet, and Saranac river watersheds. The new equipment will allow researchers to develop accurate estimates of chloride loads to lakes and streams.


Elevated concentrations of salt can be toxic to aquatic life and cause hypertension in humans. Salt also causes dehydration in plant foliage and can disrupt the uptake of critical nutrients. The Canadian federal government and several US states have explored -- and in some cases have required -- alternative deicing methods to protect drinking water supplies and reduce damage to roadside habitat due to salt injury. Recent studies indicate that chloride levels in parts of Lake Champlain have increased as much as 30% over the last ten years.


AWI data for 138 Adirondack lakes indicate dramatically higher concentrations of sodium and chloride in watersheds with paved roads than in those without paved roads. Their research also has shown a correlation between the density of paved roads in a watershed and the concentration of sodium and chloride in lakes within that watershed. The new data will allow scientists to more accurately assess the relationship between the amount of salt applied to roads and the amount that reaches nearby streams. They will also evaluate the effects of alternative methods and amounts of road salt application on stream water quality in other watersheds, which will help agencies and municipalities select management practices that reduce the impacts of road salt on aquatic environments in the Basin.





 Erosion along unpaved roads is a  

 significant source of sediment pollution  

 in many rural areas. Photo: PMNRCD.

In the ten years that the Poultney Mettowee Natural Resources Conservation District (PMNRCD) has worked with municipalities on backroad erosion issues, they have encountered strong willingness among road crews to tackle water quality threats. The greatest challenge has been prioritizing problem areas on the 271 miles of unpaved roads in the watershed. With LCBP funds, PMNRCD embarked on an effort to pinpoint those sections of road most in need of attention.


With the help of Green Mountain College GIS professor John Van Hoesen, the District identified a subset of road segments that pose the greatest threats to water quality in the region, based on length, proximity to surface water, and slope. PMNRCD staff then conducted field assessments of each segment, documenting erosion along road sides and near culverts and assessing condition of culverts. Maps illustrating priorities identified by the backroads assessment have been provided to municipal officials.


Local municipalities also agreed that hydroseeders can help stabilize easily eroded soils exposed during construction work. With their support and funding from LCBP, VT ANR, and the Vermont Community Foundation, the District purchased a new hydroseeder to be lent to municipalities. The equipment, which is housed and maintained by the Town of Castleton, has already been used for projects in Pawlet and Castleton.


PMNRCD also engaged local communities in stormwater management by developing rain gardens at Castleton State College and the Poultney Town Offices. Twelve Upward Bound high school students and Castleton State College professor Ann Honan helped design and install a medicinal-plant-themed garden at the college, while Town staff and volunteers helped the District with the Poultney project. The projects saw immediate use, as the Castleton garden was completed just one day before a two-hour, two-inch rain event.





Working with local volunteers and the tenth grade class from the Cabot School, Vermont Rivers Conservancy (VRC) transformed the backyard of the Plainfield Coop into an official river access to the Winooski River. The team cleared debris, installed a gravel trail, and constructed two sets of timber-cribbed access stairs. Students also helped develop a landscape plan that incorporates a rain garden and interpretive signage.


The project, a partnership with the Friends of the Winooski River, is part of an initiative to develop a formal recreation trail on the Winooski River. The Winooski River is becoming increasingly popular as a recreation destination, but many parts of the river lack adequate access. In addition, many portages around dams and rapids have not been developed or are in need of revitalization. As part of the LCBP grant, VRC also will host a meeting of area stakeholders to discuss the formation of a river-wide partnership focused on establishing the trail.  

New stairs will improve access to the
Winooski River. Photo: Noah Pollock.





2011 bilingual wayside exhibit for the Battle of Beekmantown at Culver Hill. Photo: LCBP 

New wayside exhibits will enhance the War of 1812 interpretive trail launched by the Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership (CVNHP) in 2011. Additional displays will explore the "home front" communities of the Champlain Valley during the Civil War and the commercial evolution of communities in the Champlain and Hudson Valleys.


New exhibits in Champlain and Beekmantown, New York will complement the eleven signs developed for the bicentennial of the War of 1812. The Interpretive Trail highlights the critical role of the war in the "Making of Nations" -- one of three interpretive themes that are central to the CVNHP's work in building appreciation and improving stewardship of the region's natural and cultural resources.


Exhibits in St. Armand, NY and Manchester, VT explore the effects of the Civil War on communities that saw significant numbers of men leave to fight, as well as the role these communities played in supporting the war effort. The town of Middlebury, VT and Kamp Kill Kare State Park in Vermont will develop signs that focus on the traditional and modern uses of water in the commercial and industrial evolution of their communities.


Grants awarded by CVNHP for the displays will include English-French translation, design assistance, and fabrication of the signs -- an estimated $1,500 value for each. The interpretive signs will be installed in Summer 2013.


To view the original series of War of 1812 interpretive exhibits, visit the Wayside Exhibit page on the LCBP website.


For more information about the War of 1812 in the Champlain Valley and sites on the Interpretive Trail, visit





1,179: The number of trees and shrubs planted along the Dog River and Stevens Branch by Friends of the Winooski with assistance by the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps and local students.


4,700: Linear feet of streambanks along the Dog River and Stevens Branch treated with the plantings by Friends of the Winooski.


1.5: Acres of previously un-treated impervious area from Flynn Avenue and lower Oakledge Park in Burlington, VT, now being treated by restored wetlands and stormwater infrastructure prior to discharge to Lake Champlain at Blanchard Beach.


930: Linear feet of streams protected by agricultural best management practices, including livestock exclusion fencing and buffer plantings, in the South Lake with guidance by the Poultney Mettowee Conservation District.


271: Miles of unpaved roads in the Poultney-Mettowee watershed assessed for erosion impairments.


31,600: Tons of sediment entering the Missisquoi River each year as a result of streambank erosion along the US reaches of the Missisquoi River analysed in a study Quantifying Sediment Loadings from Streambank Erosion in Selected Agricultural Watersheds Draining to Lake Champlain.





The International Lake Champlain-Richelieu River Plan of Study Workgroup is nearing completion of a revised version of its plan of study for flood mitigation strategies in the Champlain-Richelieu Valley. In May 2012, the International Joint Commission (IJC) appointed the workgroup to identify specific studies that are necessary to evaluate the causes and impacts of the spring 2011 flooding and to develop appropriate mitigation solutions and recommendations.


The group received valuable input on its draft plan during two public meetings last August and visited sites in Vermont, New York, and Québec that were affected by the floods of 2011. The workgroup presented a preliminary plan of study to IJC commissioners in Ottawa, Ontario in 

The Plan of Study workgroup inspected facilities damaged by flooding along

the Richelieu River.

November. After receiving feedback, the workgroup revised the plan and will release it for public review in late February 2013.


Public meetings to discuss the revised plan of study are scheduled tentatively for the evenings of Monday, March 11 in Burlington, VT and Tuesday, March 12 in St. Jean-sur-Richelieu, Québec. More information will follow once the locations are confirmed. The plan of study will be finalized pending acceptance by the IJC in May 2013. For more information, please contact Stephanie Castle, U.S. Co-secretary for the workgroup at or (802) 372-3213, or go the Plan of Study Workgroup website.





This winter, the LCBP will serve up another generous helping of fascinating Lake stories, complete with Colleen Hickey's famous desserts. The annual Love the Lake Series kicks off February 21st.

The Love the Lake speaker series brings engaging speakers and warm desserts to Grand Isle on Thursday evenings in February and March.



February 21:       

"Eagle Restoration in the Champlain Region"

             John Buck, Wildlife Biologist,
             Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department


February 28:       

"Montreal: A Fortified City"

             Jean Belisle, Professor Emeritus, Art History Dept.,
             Concordia University


March 7:               

            "Hunting, Fishing and Environmental Ethics"

Dr. Chuck List, SUNY Plattsburgh


March 14:           

"The 20th Century Camps at Valcour Island"

Roger Harwood, Local History Enthusiast for Valcour
            and Crab Island




LCBP staff have been working with a web development consultant to update The new site will be launched before the next e-News, so stay tuned for a forthcoming announcement.




Stop by the LCBP booth at the Vermont Farm Show and learn about Vermont farmers who are doing good work to improve water quality in the Basin.




The Champlain Basin Education Initiative will host a workshop "Change Over Time: Exploring the Interwoven Stories of the Burlington Waterfront" at Main Street Landing from 8:30am to 4pm. For more information, contact Colleen Hickey at LCBP 802-372-0211. Please see flyer for details.





LCBP LogoMain Office in Grand Isle:


54 West Shore Road

Grand Isle, VT 05458

(802) 372-3213 or (800) 468-5227 (toll-free in NY & VT)


LCBP Resource Room: The Resource Room at The Leahy Center for Lake Champlain (top floor of ECHO Lake Aquarium & Science Center) is open to the public seven days/week. Call (802) 864-1848 ext. 109 for more information.