Trout and Clean Water Future for Vermont

As a seasoned fisherman will confirm, “no clean water, no fish habitat, no trout.” Sometimes referred to as the streams’ “canary in the coal mine,” trout require high quality, oxygen-rich cold water streams that can support the food-chain that they depend upon while also providing good habitat throughout their life cycle. Sedimentation from erosion, nutrient loading from nitrogen and phosphorus runoff, and other water quality and habitat degradation have an enormous impact on the survival of our fish and aquatic organisms.

In January 2016, representatives from across the State gathered for a public forum in Brattleboro, VT with a room full of Trout Unlimited members, Southeast Vermont Watershed Alliance members, and members of the general public to discuss fish populations, fish habitats and what the new Vermont Clean Water Act will mean for Vermont’s waterways, towns, and farmers.

During the event, Chris Campany, Windham Regional Commission set the stage for the evening by explaining that stream and river habitat and infrastructure resilience go hand-in-hand; they are actually two sides of the same coin.

Our keynote speaker, Rich Kirn from the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department, brought our waterways to life by showing images of our locally common aquatic communities and the characteristics of healthy trout habitat, emphasizing the importance of water quality and good habitat to the survival of aquatic populations.

Representative David Deen, a key player in the development of the Vermont Clean Water Act and a river activist for the Connecticut River Watershed Council, described the background that led to the passage of Act 64, the Vermont Clean Water Act and the important implications that this legislation will have for improving water quality statewide.

The final two speakers introduced two critical components of the Vermont Clean Water Act, which will have the greatest impact on municipalities and farmers. Jim Ryan, Vermont Department of Conservation (VT DEC), introduced the Municipal Roads General Permit and new stormwater guidelines, which will reduce erosion along our roadways. Ryan Patch, Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets, concluded the evening with an overview of the draft Required Agricultural Practices, legislation that will help reduce nutrient loading in our waterways.

The event was part of the regular meetings of the Connecticut River Trout Unlimited Chapter and the Southeastern Vermont Watershed Alliance. If you would like to watch this public forum, it was filmed by the Brattleboro Community Television and can be accessed here. Additional resources on water quality and the Clean Water Act can be found at the WRC website.