As we ring in the New Year, it’s a great time to make healthy choices. As a state, we can start making healthy choices for our rivers, lakes and wetlands. This year, the Watershed Management Division issued Tactical Basin Plans (TBP) for two watersheds – the Winooski River and the White River. The TBPs are plans to restore and enhance the health of our watersheds.
The White River flows east to the Connecticut river and the Long Island Sound, while the Winooski River flows west to Lake Champlain. Regardless of the different directions they take, both include a good portion of the forested slopes of the Green Mountains that support a healthy cold-water fishery as well as notable falls and gorges. Both are known by fly fishing enthusiasts from all over the country as well as kayakers and canoeists, with the White River providing opportunities along its entire undammed length.
While the TBPs identify these opportunities as reasons for enhanced protection of the resource, the plans also identify threats, such as sedimentation, high nutrient and pathogen levels in both watersheds. Based on a scientifically rigorous assessment of watershed health, the plans map out the actions needed to restore or protect the health of the wetlands, streams and lakes of each of the watersheds.
The Winooski River plan also provides the Phase II content for the Lake Champlain Phosphorus Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), which sets phosphorus reduction target, preventing phosphorus pollution from entering the Winooski River and flowing into Lake Champlain. Phosphorus pollution can result in dangerous algae blooms and can close lakes for swimming.
The plans were developed in partnership with the Chittenden, Lamoille, Central Vermont, Rutland and the Two Rivers-Ottauquechee Regional Planning Commissions, and the Northeastern Vermont Development Association; the Winooski, Lamoille and White River Natural Resources Conservation Districts; and watershed groups, including the White River Partnerships, Friends of the Winooski River and Friends of the Mad River. These organizations will also be key in the plans’ implementation.
One of the most important features of each Tactical Basin Plan is an implementation table. This table offers a summary of the targeted actions that Vermonters must take to protect these waters and to address the water quality issues in each watershed. This table is a valuable roadmap that explains the direction we’ll need to go if we want to achieve clean water goals.
Some of these actions are already in place. They include improving the management of stormwater off parking lots and roads, enhancing forested buffers of the rivers, and increasing use of best management practices on agricultural and silvicultural lands. If you’re in the Winooski or White River watersheds, you can start seeing these tangible improvements by observing the green of cover crops growing on a harvested corn field, the stone-lined ditches on town roads or the placement of a portable skidder bridge to protect stream crossing during logging operations. For more information on each of the individual clean water projects, check out the VT Watershed Projects Database (WPD).
These plans are just the beginning. The next step involves the on-the ground work. The Watershed Management Division uses an all-in approach to bring communities together to start implementing these clean water actions in their towns. Town officials, farmers, foresters, and businesses will work together to clean up these rivers.
If you’d like more information, or if you’d like to get involved in the clean water projects, check out the tactical basin planning webpage for more information. You can also take a virtual journey through the watershed by accessing the new basin plan Story Map that provides an interactive overview of the basin and planning process.