The Brewster River has long been valued in the communities of Cambridge and Jeffersonville for swimming, fishing and for its natural and scenic value. It is also vulnerable to erosion and sedimentation. Increased flooding during recent years has left its mark on the Brewster, especially evident near its confluence with the Lamoille River in Jeffersonville, where a large gravel bar had formed in the middle of the river channel and the west bank was steadily eroding. These dramatic visible changes in the river’s course reached a critical point last fall when the Village’s water lines became exposed and a utility pole stood precariously in the river channel, resulting in emergency measures to remove the gravel bar and stabilize the eroding bank.
The dramatic increase in the frequency and magnitude of flooding events in Cambridge (15 floods during the last 30 years, five of these occurring within a year of each other, four of them severe enough to become federally – declared disasters) has sparked interest in the community to develop a better understanding of river processes and actions the community can take to reduce future flood damages. Study of the Brewster River began in fall 2012 with a basic preliminary “Phase 1” assessment of the entire main river channel and a more detailed “Phase 2” assessment of the river within Jeffersonville.
This summer, with a $24,240 grant from the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources’ Ecosystem Restoration Program, the Lamoille County Planning Commission (LCPC) and the Town of Cambridge will continue assessing the Brewster River. A detailed Phase 2 assessment will be completed for the entire main channel from Jeffersonville to Smuggler’s Notch, and a River Corridor Plan will be developed. This Plan will describe the current condition of the river and how human activity is impacting it, and will identify some discrete projects that will help restore and protect the river. LCPC and the Cambridge Conservation Commission will reach out to landowners whose properties were identified for potential stream restoration projects, and Smugglers Notch Resort will provide a tour of innovative management techniques that can be used to reduce stormwater runoff.
One type project that is already in the works, is the raising of the pedestrian bridge just east of GW Tatro along Route 15. LCPC's GIS cordinator Melina Scott said some flood modeling created, based on the 2012 assessment, determined if that bridge was raised slightly it would allow more water to pass through in flood times, significantly reducing the amount of flooding in the area.
She said the town has received approval from FEMA for Hazard Mitigation money, and are working on other grants to help meet the local match to undergo the project. Other projects are also in the planning stage, such as work in the area near the elementary school where buses are parked.
The LCPC will partner with the Cambridge Conservation Commission, Village of Jeffersonville, Town of Cambridge, Smugglers’ Notch Resort and the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation to accomplish this project. The Cambridge Conservation Commission has recently taken on several stewardship projects, including knotweed mapping and eradication, a Lamoille river community clean-up day, and collaborative efforts with other Lamoille County Conservation Commissions to prepare for the likely infestation of the emerald ash borer. Recognizing how the Brewster River assessment ties into their other stewardship projects and to the flood resiliency of the entire community, the Cambridge Conservation Commission enthusiastically volunteered to partner with LCPC on this project.
This project continues LCPC’s ongoing work to assess the condition of rivers and streams in Lamoille County, and to work with communities towards identifying and implementing projects that restore and protect the watershed while maintaining economic opportunities for communities. More information is available by contacting Melinda Scott, LCPC’s GIS Planner at 888-4548 or visiting the LCPC website at www.lcpcvt.org.