Opportunities / Progress

Watersheds United Vermont Brings Watershed Organizations and State Together to Talk Water Quality

On Wednesday, April 13, members of watershed organizations from across Vermont convened to discuss strategies to improve water quality from the Champlain Basin to the White River Watershed and beyond. Lyn Munno and Watersheds United Vermont hosted its spring meeting at the State Office Complex in Waterbury that brought together many different stakeholders involved in important work towards improving water quality. Attendees represented a range of organizations, including the Lewis Creek Association, the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps, the Vermont River Conservancy, the White River Partnership, many of Vermont’s Natural Resources Conservation Districts, and the Department of Environmental Conservation’s Watershed Management Division, among others.

Sessions and speakers spoke on diverse and interesting topics. Mike Kline, of DEC’s Rivers Program, introduced the meeting by illuminating the commons nature of river management. He outlined important performance standards to help measure the health of rivers and advocated that we manage towards our rivers’ least erosive conditions.

Breck Knauft and Naomi Galimidi of Vermont Youth Conservation Corps, VYCC, lead a dialogue on individual donor cultivation.

Breck Knauft and Naomi Galimidi of Vermont Youth Conservation Corps, VYCC, lead a dialogue on individual donor cultivation.

Meeting attendees then participated in one of two concurrent sessions.Steve Libby of the Vermont River Conservancy and Mary Russ of the White River Partnership spoke about river corridor easements, and explained the necessary steps to speak and coordinate with landowners towards the conservation of river corridor land. Simultaneously Breck Knauft and Naomi Galimidi of the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps discussed successful strategies organizations could take towards cultivating donor contributions.

Next, a panel of speakers consisting of Marli Rupe of the DEC’s Clean Water Initiative Program, Rebekah Weber of the Conservation Law Foundation, and Michael Storace of the Two Rivers-Ottauquechee Regional Commission, spoke to the meeting members about Act 64 from three perspectives. Marli gave a large-scale overview of Act 64 and its connection to the Lake Champlain TMDL, Rebekah rooted deeper in targeting the root of phosphorus load reductions from stormwater management techniques and other strategies, and Michael spoke in detail about the work Regional Planning Commissions, RPCs, are doing with municipalities around the state. Michael also explained that many RPCs have established Clean Water Advisory Committees to identify priority projects in different watersheds, in coordination with Tactical Basin Planning, where watershed organizations can contribute their expertise.

From left to right, Michael Storace, Rebekah Weber, and Marli Rupe spoke on a panel about the current state of Act 64 and its next steps moving forward.

From left to right, Michael Storace, Rebekah Weber, and Marli Rupe spoke on a panel about the current state of Act 64 and its next steps moving forward.

After lunch, Neil Kamman, Program Manager of the DEC’s Monitoring, Assessment, and Planning Program,  explained probable rule changing regarding water quality typing, water quality classifications based on designated uses, and protection of uses associated with anti-degradation policy. Ethan Swift and Emily Byrd followed with a discussion on Tactical Basin Planning and the forthcoming dynamic implementation tracking system that will be used to measure load reduction of identified projects. Lastly, Marli Rupe spoke again about Ecosystem Restoration Grant funding opportunities for watershed organizations. With robust presentations on a number of diverse topics, the Watershed United Vermont Spring Meeting offered members of watershed organizations with a great venue to learn about work being done by similar organizations in Vermont and to discover future water quality improvement opportunities around the state.