Chittenden County RPC mixes and matches grant funds to spur development of clean water projects

With support from a variety of grant sources, the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission (CCRPC) is working to move clean water projects from Scoping to Conceptual Design to Final Design to Construction. Its member municipalities, like others throughout Vermont, are on the frontlines of efforts to help the state reach its phosphorus load reduction targets for Lake Champlain. Learning how to use multiple funding sources is key to keeping forward progress and not allowing a good project to fall by the wayside. Two current projects, one in urban Winooski and the other in rural Jericho, illustrate this approach.

The western terminus of Elm Street in Winooski contains a catch basin with an outfall which discharges stormwater down a steep hillside which eventually leads to the Winooski River. In 2017 the CCRPC conducted the required Road Erosion Inventory for the city of its hydrologically connected roads and this outfall was identified as non-compliant with Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) permit requirements due to heavy erosion. The CCRPC then used its Federal Highway Administration Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) funds in 2018 to hire Watershed Consulting Associates (WCA) to prepare a Conceptual Plan (see photo). In late 2019, CCRPC applied for a DEC-funded Design/Implementation Block Grant (DIBG) administered by the Southern Windsor County RPC to enable production of a comprehensive Final Design including a construction cost estimate. In early 2020 the grant was awarded and CCRPC has already tasked WCA to proceed with the design. This site is also part of a larger UVM study funded by VTRANS to monitor the efficacy of stormwater mitigation at road erosion sites.

While paved streets are the issue in an urban setting, in rural communities, gravel roads are the primary concern. The best approach to reducing erosion off gravel roads is to reduce the source of the erosion, namely stormwater runoff from developed areas. The CCRPC assisted the Town of Jericho by securing a DEC Ecosystem Restoration Grant to develop a Stormwater Master Plan completed in 2017. The Plan identified stormwater sources and then highlighted twenty-one potential sites for the installation of stormwater best management practices and provided initial designs to manage flows to avoid gravel roads at six locations including an infiltration basin at the Town Green at Jericho Center Circle. In the summer of 2019, CCRPC used a subgrant from a DEC Project Development grant issued to Northwest Regional Planning Commission to bring the Town and DEC together to revisit the Jericho Center Circle project. That in turn lead to a request by the Town to the CCRPC for technical assistance to address the broader issue of stormwater runoff from Bolger Hill Road which due to steepness at its western terminus discharges heavy volumes of water and gravel into the Green during storms. Using its MPO funds, the CCRPC tasked the work to the firm of Hoyle, Tanner & Associates, Inc. who produced a “Drainage Alternatives Study” in early 2020. That work provided further detail on the runoff problem and recommended installation of a second stormwater basin on the Green. Recently, the CCRPC secured a second DIBG to enable production of a comprehensive Final Design for both basins including a construction cost estimate. Starting in FY21 the CCRPC will also be conducting a follow up analysis of drainage solutions for Bolger Hill Road using its MPO funds. Once both of these design efforts are completed in early 2021, the Town will be well positioned to seek construction funds for a comprehensive project that will reduce stormwater runoff as well as provide a permanent solution to prevent repetitive damage to a small but important town road.

The task of bringing water quality projects from identification to completion can seem daunting. Fortunately, there are a variety of grant sources available and if towns, regional planning commissions and non-profits are diligent, they can piece together a string of opportunities together to make them happen.