by Andrew Martin
Help with the growing erosion problem along Wolcott’s rivers could soon be on the way. Work is expected to be taking place to halt the continued erosion of land on sections of the Wild Branch and Elmore Branch waterways in the town. Authorities are planning to install a series of buffers in the upcoming months along key stretches of the two Wolcott rivers as well as others in Lamoille County.
The plan to erect the barriers is part of a larger project taking place in Lamoille County. The Lamoille County Conservation District (LCCD) and the Lamoille County Planning Commission (LCPC) have joined together to create the Lamoille Sun-Watershed Project, which aims to reduce nutrient and sediment loading and increase nutrient and sediment storage by completing river restoration and protection projects. Along with the Wild Branch and Elmore Branch, other rivers in Lamoille County that have been selected for the project include Centerville Brook in Hyde Park and the Gihon River in Johnson.
According to LCCD’s Kimberly Komer she and others will seek to implement the goals of the project by addressing issues like undersized culverts and bridges, stormwater management, roadside and streamside erosion, and a lack of buffers. They will do so by implementing corrective actions or protecting land through easements. While the LCCD will be identifying problem culverts and bridges in the future the two issues of erosion and lack of buffers will be the ones addressed in Wolcott in the upcoming months.
The work in Wolcott will center on installing Riparian Buffers through the Trees for Streams program in collaboration with the United States Fish and Wildlife Partners Program. Both areas that will be receiving attention are near recreational fields in Wolcott, one on School Street and one on the North Wolcott Road.
“Riparian Buffers not only serve to stabilize banks and reduce erosion but also filter nutrients in the stream coming from croplands and fields upstream,” explained Komer, “They also create habitat for wildlife, shade the waterways, and connect with other ecosystems.”
According to Komer the Riparian Buffers that will be installed will actually be vegetative zones consisting of non-invasive trees and bushes. For both streams in Wolcott the buffer zones will go back roughly 35 feet from the stream bank, a distance that is ideal for bank stabilization. Komer explained that a variety of trees, including willows, red maples, sugar maples, green ash, white pine, and grey birch will be planted in the zones along with smaller shrubs.
All the trees and shrubs being planted along the river banks will range from three to six feet high. The length the barrier zones run along the streams will vary, with the barrier running 1300 linear feet along the Elmore Branch and only 700 feet along the Wild Branch. Along with the two areas marked for Riparian Buffers in Wolcott the vegetation is also scheduled to be planted along stretches of rivers in Hyde Park and Stowe.
Funding for the Trees for Streams program is provided by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service Cooperative Agreement, the Lake Champlain Program, and Lamoille River Anglers. According to Komer she has been able to work with local schools in the past few years to have students help install similar buffers and hopes to do so again this year. She is currently hoping to have students install the barriers along the Wild Branch and Elmore Branch in May of this year.