Grant helps keep Charlotte stormwater in check

A tributary to Holmes Creek carries water toward Lake Champlain at the Charlotte Park and Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Lauren Milideo

The Town of Charlotte will have a cleaner creek, and Lake Champlain will see a little less stormwater runoff, thanks to a 2017 Watershed Grant from Vermont Fish and Wildlife to the Charlotte Town Park Oversight Committee.

At the Charlotte Park and Wildlife Refuge, a ditch was excavated in 2006 to capture runoff and prevent erosion, according to Charlotte Park and Wildlife Refuge Committee co-chair Jenny Cole and Charlotte Park and Wildlife Refuge co-chair and Charlotte Deputy Tree Warden Sue Smith. The ditch leads to a tributary of Holmes Creek, which runs out to Lake Champlain at Charlotte Beach. Draining about 100 acres of nearby farmland, the ditch has been subject to headcutting, per the grant application. According to Smith and Cole, the adjacent hayfield is fertilized with manure, yielding nitrates and phosphorus which then make their way to the ditch and from there, into the stream. In a letter of support for the project, River Scientist Gretchen Alexander noted that the geology of the area lends itself to erosion, with water quality impacted as a result.

The ditch empties into the larger tributary stream at the site of a former farm dump. Fencing, glass, bricks, and other materials have been removed by volunteers, Smith and Cole noted.

The project involves the installation of five log check dams, with stone alongside to capture and slow down rushing stormwater as it heads for Lake Champlain, carrying excess nutrients, Cole and Smith explained. The logs will come from trees cut elsewhere in the preserve, and the dams will be placed along the ditch leading to the creek.

The site is one of the Lewis Creek Association’s 14 local Ahead of the Storm demonstration sites, noted LCA director Marty Illick, who with Cole assembled the grant application. Per LCA’s website, AOTS projects amalgamate collected data and planning with applied restoration and education to tackle water quality issues, with a focus on the LaPlatte River watershed. LCA has been involved in the project through its planning and design stages, provided funding through an Agency of Natural Resources Flow Restoration Plan grant, said Illick, and Cole added that LCA will also contribute $452 for construction oversight. Smith and Cole noted that the plan is to finish the project by midsummer.

“All these projects give us ideas how to deal with these problems and also how to recognize these problems when they arise in other places,” said Cole.

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