Header Photo: Foliage from the top of the tower at Hubbard Park, Montpelier
Dead Creek Wildlife Day This Saturday, October 5th
|Kids activities at Dead Creek Wildlife Day|
Are you looking for an excuse to get out and enjoy the gorgeous fall weather in a beautiful natural setting this weekend? Dead Creek Wildlife Day, which takes place at the Dead Creek Wildlife Management Area in Addison, has been listed as one of Vermont's Top 10 Fall events and will be taking place this Saturday, October 5th.
The day begins at 7am with a bird-banding demonstration, and also includes wildlife-related exhibits, kids craft activities, nature walks, illustrated talks, live wildlife presentations, hunting dog demonstrations, fishing and hunting tips.
For more information and a schedule of events, visit the Vermont Fish & Wildlife's website here
. This event is free and open to the public so come on out! We hope to see you there.
Applications Being Accepted for 2014 Governor's Awards for Environmental Excellence
Applications are now being accepted for the 2014 Governor's Awards for Environmental Excellence. The awards recognize the actions taken by individuals and organizations to conserve and protect natural resources, prevent pollution, and promote sustainability. Applications are due by January 27, 2014. Members of the public and staff of the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources are encouraged to nominate projects or promote deserving organizations. For more information and a link to the application, please visit http://www.eaovt.org/
ANR Employees Support Charitable Giving Through VtShares Campaign
Vermonters share a long and cherished tradition of charitable giving, ranking 9th in the nation for volunteerism in 2010. This year, ANR hopes to continue that spirit of generosity by participating with the VtShares Campaign. VtShares is an easy donation alternative for state employees. This year, VtShares hopes to raise $275,000 for deserving charities throughout the state. The donation efforts of state employees will benefit well-deserving Vermonters in a variety of areas, from food to fuel assistance to land conservation. Kudos to all who will be giving this year!
If you are a state employee and are interested in participating in the VtShares Campaign, you can choose from a wide variety of charitable organizations to support. Donations can be made by way of payroll deduction, or one time direct-debit, cash or check payment. For more information on participating charities and to find out how you can participate, visit the VtShares website here. |
From the Secretary's Desk: Implementing Resilience
|ANR Secretary Deb Markowitz|
This month's Ripples focuses on the ways we, at ANR, learned from the damage the state sustained from Tropical Storm Irene to build Vermont's resilience to future climate related disasters.
In the days, weeks and months that followed Irene, Vermont state government joined together with our local and federal government, nonprofits, and legions of volunteers to get people and communities back on their feet as quickly as possible. At the Agency of Natural Resources, we responded to spills of hazardous waste, gasoline and oil. We helped communities repair drinking water and sewage treatment systems. We addressed accumulations of gravel, tree trunks, cars and endless debris that threatened to cause further damage to bridges, roads and homes, or presented a risk of harm to public safety. We supported our transportation agency and our cities and towns as they quickly rebuilt roads and bridges
From that emergency response, we learned an absolutely critical message: build back, but build back with resilience in mind.
Once the water fell, many of us shared the same initial instinct to quickly replace everything and restore communities to the way they were before the flood. In some instances however, the desire to put everything back just the way it was before is misplaced.
We discovered in Vermont that much of the damage we experienced after Irene mirrored damage from flooding in 1927 and again in the 1970s, because we rebuilt in the same way and in the same places. We understood that as we moved forward, it must be with care, an understanding of the factors that led to the high level of destruction that we experienced, and a clear focus on the long-term resiliency of our infrastructure, communities and natural resources.
Over the last two years, that focus on creating communities, resources and economies that are resilient to uncertainty and change has guided our efforts and informed our policies.
In this issue of Ripples, I want to share with our readers some of the practical ways with which we at the Agency of Natural Resources are working to put the concept of resilience into practice. From identifying and conserving resources that provide ecological services to our citizens, to improving the way that we understand and plan our development, to eliminating expensive and outdated dams and restoring free-flowing rivers, we are actively working to build, and rebuild, Vermont with safety, health and long-term well-being in mind.
Across departments and programs, today you will find the concept of resilience at the core of nearly every major initiative we undertake. We believe that the benefits of these efforts will pay off not only in strong, vibrant communities today, but will ultimately result in a Vermont that is better able to weather the changes that tomorrow will undoubtedly bring.
Green Stormwater Infrastructure Practices Offer Low-Impact Techniques To AddressStormwater Runoff
In a mountainous state like Vermont, the topic of stormwater runoff is integrally tied to the discussion of resilience. As we have seen, stormwater runoff can be extremely destructive, particularly during flood events. In addition to causing erosion which can lead to structural failures of roads, culverts and bridges, stormwater carries with it many toxins that eventually make their way into our water bodies, where they create quality problems from excess sediment and noxious chemical contamination to the introduction of high levels of phosphorous that cause algal blooms and may present health risks.
Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) is a collection of infrastructure tools that utilize the processes of infiltration, evapotranspiration, storage and reuse of water in order to diffuse and reroute a portion of the stormwater runoff that occurs as a result of rain or snowmelt. Some of the benefits of green stormwater infrastructure include reduced and delayed stormwater flows, enhanced groundwater recharge, stormwater pollutant reductions, reduced sewer overflows, urban heat island mitigation, improved air quality, additional wildlife habitat and recreational space, improved human health and increased land values.
As mentioned above, Green Stormwater Infrastructure relies on a suite of three primary tools to help mitigate the flow of stormwater. The first, infiltration, refers to a natural process by which water moves into and through soil and other porous materials, generally relying on low-energy actors such as gravity to move water from the surface and down into the soil. In addition to slowing and diffusing the movement of stormwater, the infiltration process effectively filters pollutants and recharges groundwater as well. Some examples of infiltration methods include porous pavements, infiltration trenches and dry wells.
A second process commonly used to absorb excess water is evapotranspiration. As is mentioned in Commissioner Snyder's forest resilience article, evapotranspiration is a process by which water is transferred from the earth's surface into the atmosphere, often by way of vegetative evaporation. Evapotranspiration is a naturally occurring process and is one of the reasons that undeveloped land provides resilience benefits to a landscape. However urban and suburban areas can benefit from evapotranspiration as well, perhaps even more-so than open areas because of the impervious nature of many built environments and the greater population density that exist in these places. Some practices that can contribute to the volume of water rechanneled through evapotranspiration include green roofs, constructed wetlands and stormwater tree pits. In all of these instances, surface vegetation and sprawling canopies provide a large surface area for evaporation. In addition, the herbaceous vegetation effectively serve as a buffer for the ground beneath them, intercepting rainwater before it hits the ground. Finally, root systems pull water from underlying soils and transpire it into the atmosphere, decreasing soil saturation levels and thereby increasing the overall level of water an area can absorb before becoming fully saturated. Wetlands function by slowing and dispersing runoff over the landscape, increasing surface loss and providing a longer window of time for plants to uptake additional water through the evapotranspiration process.
Finally, water storage and reuse methods effectively curtail stormwater runoff, while conserving fresh water simultaneously. Some green stormwater infrastructure methods that utilize storage and reuse include rain barrels and cisterns, underground water storage tanks and rainwater reuse systems. The water captured can by redirected and used to flush toilets, for agricultural irrigation, for industrial purposes or even to wash cars and water lawns and gardens.
If you would like to learn more about green stormwater infrastructure, and how you can put these tools to work at your home or business, or in your community, you can now access a set of four green stormwater infrastructure fact sheets, developed by the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, here. Decentralized by its very nature, green stormwater infrastructure offers an ideal example of how each of us can implement small changes that collectively, can provide significant positive benefits for resources, such as water bodies, which benefit us all.
|Photo Credit: Q.T. Luong|
Can Forests Prevent or Mitigate Floods?
By Michael Snyder, Commissioner, VT Dept. of Forests, Parks & Recreation. This article originally appeared in the June 2012 issue of Northern Woodlands Magazine
Healthy forests play an absolutely vital role in moderating water movement over our landscape. Although forests cannot prevent large floods outright, they certainly do minimize the frequency, intensity, and extent of all flooding events, which in turn significantly reduces the damage to life and property that serious flooding causes. It's yet another way in which forests work for us.
Water first enters our landscape in the form of rain, snow, sleet, fog, or hail. Forests may influence the occurrence and distribution of local precipitation, but their most significant contribution is in how forested watersheds receive and deal with all the water that falls on them. Forests absorb and reroute water - thereby diffusing its potentially damaging energy - before slowly releasing the water into seeps, ponds, lakes, rills, brooks, streams, and rivers. The net hydrologic effect of the forest is to delay and reduce the size of the flood peak.
Forested watersheds have complex canopies with varied densities of tree stems and branches, additional layers of non-tree vegetation, extensive root systems, deep, loose soils, and fluffy leaf litter. All of these features allow a large amount of water to infiltrate the soil and be absorbed - like a super-capacity sponge. A rainstorm can drop millions of tons of water on the land. When forest vegetation is present, leaves, stems, and downed woody debris intercept, absorb, and reduce the impact of both falling and running water. This allows the water to evaporate from plant surfaces, soak into the soil and its many pore spaces (animal burrows, decayed-root tunnels, or soil voids), or run off in a gradual manner. Soils in healthy forests are particularly porous and absorbent and can hold staggering volumes of water.
Much of the water absorbed by forest soils is drawn up by plant roots and transpired, moving back to the atmosphere as water vapor. During the growing season this "evapotranspiration" reduces the amount of water in the soil; in some forests it removes as much as 70 percent of the incoming precipitation. This, in turn, renews the soil's ability to absorb even more water.
Consequently - and luckily for us - streamflow responses in forested watersheds tend to be slow and small, and they occur predominantly via subsurface runoff. Indeed, forested watersheds yield lower peak flows and smaller volumes of runoff over a longer time than do nonforested land covers. Accordingly, flood damage in forested areas - and in areas downstream of them - is the smallest among all surface conditions. Forests also minimize soil erosion and landslides, and improve stream channel stability and water quality.
There are limits to the flood-mitigating effects of forests. When soils are fully saturated, any additional rainfall will run off the land, whether it is forested or not. Thus, forests can reduce peak flows from storms of short duration and lower intensity. They can downright prevent flooding that would otherwise occur in lesser storms and smaller watersheds particularly sensitive to rain events. They can minimize the damage from large storms. But they cannot prevent the major floods produced by storms of high intensity and long duration.
Clearly, our needs for abundant clean water and healthy forests are important issues for the 21st century, not only because forests provide critical raw materials for people and industries, but also because they are key factors in the normal functioning of the environment. Water and forests are two of the most profound natural forces on the planet, and they are closely linked. Without water, there are no forests. And without forests we are much more vulnerable to erosion and flooding.
Removal of Obsolete Dams Frees Rivers, Reduces Flooding
By Brian Fitzgerald, Streamflow Protection Coordinator
This year, for the first time in at least 150 years, the Batten Kill will be a free-flowing river as it winds across the Vermont countryside. This change will be brought about by the removal of the Dufresne Pond Dam in Manchester, the last remaining dam in on the mainstem of the Batten Kill in Vermont.
This story of this dam and its removal illustrates how our understanding of rivers and how we value them has changed over the decades. It provides an example of vigorous efforts across the country to restore rivers and improve public safety at aging, unused dams.
When Vermont was being settled and developed in the 19th century, small dams were built to power sawmills and gristmills and other small industries. Villages often formed around these structures. This was a time when people valued rivers for the utilitarian benefits they provide, like mill power and transportation. The first dam at Dufresne Pond was built in 1868 to power a sawmill. By 1930 the sawmill was gone. Later, the dam was used to supply water to the Peterson wood products factory and a local stone-crushing operation. In 1956, the dam and adjacent land was acquired by the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department. The state reconstructed the dam, developed a public access area and began stocking the pond with trout. Over the years, the state also invested a significant amount of money in dam repairs.
|During the removal process|
By the mid-1990s, the amount of water leaking through the dam began to concern state engineers. The state conducted a detailed assessment of the dam's condition and identified several options to address its structural problems. Since the problems were deep in the dam's earthen embankment, there was no easy or inexpensive fix. Most involved reconstructing a major portion of the dam. The other option, which turned out to be the least expensive, was to remove it.
Based on the assessment, the state took a more detailed look at the benefits of removing the dam:
Another issue is that people in the local neighborhood value having access to the river and pond and have been concerned about losing this public open space. The state will continue to maintain the public access area and it will be available to local residents. Read more.
- eliminate the risk of failure and flooding caused by a dam with structural problems;
- lower cost to remove the dam than repair it, and avoid future operation and maintenance costs;
- remove a barrier that prevents fish and other aquatic life from freely moving upstream and downstream;
- restore the natural movement of sediment downstream (the dam creates a "sediment trap")
- eliminate a temperature increase caused by the shallow impoundment;
- reduce upstream water levels during floods (downstream flood levels would not change).
|ANR Releases Climate Change Adaptation Framework Report for Natural Resource Sectors
By Brian Woods, Air Quality & Climate Division
While a great deal of attention has been focused on the vulnerability of our roads, bridges and communities since 2011's flood events, the ANR is also looking at what species and ecosystems could be at risk over the next decades from a changing northeast and Vermont climate. Recently, the ANR has released a report titled "Climate Change Adaptation Framework", produced by the Montpelier office of TetraTech, Inc. The report focuses on four important natural resource sectors: lakes and streams, rivers and ponds, wetlands, and upland forests. It examines these natural communities and the plants and animals that live in them, evaluates which are expected to be most at risk from the warmer temperatures and the cycles of wet and dry weather that are predicted in the future, and develops a list of potential actions ("adaptation strategies") that could help protect them. For example, cold water adapted fish species such as brook trout are at risk if extended periods of little or rainfall become more common, along with rising air temperatures that in turn cause stream temperatures to increase. Stream bank vegetation buffers could be used to provide shade and maintain cool water habitat for brook trout and and other cool water species, in addition to acting as a check on erosion and mitigating phosphorus releases to the state's waters.
The process of developing this report was not limited to ANR. In July 2012 over 60 experts in hydrology, biology and ecosystem protection from government, the private sector and academia gathered in Montpelier to apply their expertise to this project. A second workshop, engaging many of the same participants as well as resource managers in these areas and focused on developing adaptation strategies, took place in early December 2012. The final report, including appendices, is available at the ANR Climate Change Team on-line Library:
What is Good Quality Habitat? Examining "Necessary Wildlife Habitat" Functions
Article by Paul L. Hamelin. This article first appeared in the Fish & Wildlife Department's Natural Heritage Harmonies Winter 2013 Newsletter
The term "necessary wildlife habitat" (NWH) seems redundant, as one would assume that all habitat components are necessary for wildlife to thrive on the landscape. However, several environmental regulatory processes and habitat conservation strategies in Vermont recognize that certain habitats or their components are essential to the perpetuation of the species. Such habitat or componenents are afforded special protection under Vermont law, once their "necessary" status has been recognized via regulation or case law. As applied in Act 250, Vermont's land use and development law, NWH is defined as "concentrated habitat which is identifiable and is demonstrated as being decisive to the survival of a species of wildlife at any period in its life including breeding and migratory periods." Other Vermont regulatory processes which apply the concept of NWH are the Vermont Wetland Rules, and Section 248 of Title 30 V.S.A. 203 (regulation of certain public energy utilities).
The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department has been reviewing and commenting on Act 250 (and Section 248) applications since the laws were enacted. The department has successfully protected deer wintering areas, mast stands, wetlands (including bear feeding wetlands and vernal pools), wildlife road crossings, and habitat for rare and endangered species, such as heron rookeries and falcon nest cliffs.
Of course, NWH is found on private land throughout Vermont, so landowners can voluntarily protect and perpetuate these habitats at any time, outside of the regulatory processes. Let's examine some examples of NWH, and consider how they may be protected or perpetuated by private landowners in Vermont. Read more.
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