The Friends of Northern Lake Champlain in collaboration with other watershed groups, the St. Albans Cooperative Creamery, and Northwest Regional Planning Commission have been on a mission to change the conversation around water quality in the region. With funding from a Climate Change Grant through the Lake Champlain Basin Program, we are exploring intersections of water quality and climate resilience. We are bringing regional leaders to help us frame the conversation and developing tools that will be shared throughout the region.
This page is a resource to gain a better understanding of the work we are doing and the conversations that are happening.
The Watershed Navigators of Northwest Vermont, a newly formed coalition of watershed groups, Regional Planning, the St. Albans Cooperative, and State and Federal Agencies have been working together on framing watershed issues in relation to the changing climate/weather that is impacting our waterways.
Our intent is to better understand together the factors that are contributing to increased pollution in our rivers, lakes, and ponds in our region and empower people to implement changes in behavior that could lead to a more resilient region. We are encouraging people from various sectors to attend every meeting to have a cross sectoral reference of the issues.
We are approaching this by bringing together regional leaders in a series of 5 workshops to learn from the experts in different sectors, discussing assumptions, feedback from constituents, and integrating the information into a series of questions and answers to help us uncover how to create better messaging tools to share resilience to our community members.
The first workshop occurred in May and we invited Leslie-Ann
Dupigny-Giroux, Vermont’s State Climatologist to speak about the larger impacts and system of climate. The larger group then broke out into facilitated smaller groups to discuss how this information affected their thinking, what impact the information had on them, and finally what messages could be shared effectively with the greater public.
Below is a link to the video the very first meeting with our guest presenter Leslie-Ann Dupigny- Giroux, Vermont’s State Climatologist. We have also included a summary of the participants conversations.
Our second workshop in June focused on transportation infrastructure and how infrastructure decisions should be made in relation to increasing rain fall in our region. Historically, we have created a built environment along our rivers and streams. That environment has recently been threatened by its proximity to waterways and the increasing velocity and power of that water.
Mike Kline, the program manager for the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation’s Rivers Management Program spoke to the team about stream equilibrium, how streams respond at different scales, how science can be applied to minimize erosion, and how to link transportation and river corridor planning. Becky Tharp, Manager of the Green Infrastructure Collaborative, a program of Lake Champlain Sea Grant and the Vermont DEC then joined us to speak about the barriers that are common regarding the implementation of green infrastructure in communities and changes in regulations that slow implementation progress at the local level.
The group then broke out into smaller groups to discuss assumptions about transportation, the impact the presentations had on us, and the messaging or take-aways that we could incorporate into outreach efforts to the public and municipal entities. The video from that workshop will be available soon. The link to the summary from the attendee conversations is below.
Agriculture is a large part of our built environment in Northwest, Vermont and we wanted to get a better understanding of how agriculture is being affected by climate change and how agriculture is a critical sector that could help us be more resilient to the impacts of climate change. In order to discuss these topics we invited Joshua Faulkner, the Farming and Climate Change Coordinator and Heather Darby, Agronomy Specialist, both from the University of Vermont.
Their presentations focused on the way climate changes will affect and are affecting agriculture and the research they are doing on generating data points to help reduce those impacts. Land management and soil health in the changing climate system are key components of how we work to reduce the impacts not only on our food and agriculture production, but could be critical to the built infrastructure of our roads and village centers. The smaller groups had an opportunity to discuss the learning and what messages we are hearing from our constituents in this sector and how we address some of the larger assumptions around climate change and agriculture in our region. The video and summary from that workshop will be available soon.
This workshop focused on land development and conservation and we were fortunate to have Joshua Swartz the Executive Director of the Mad River Valley Planning District join us. This organization is a unique three-town planning entity developed by the towns of Fayston, Waitsfield, and Warren and Sugarbush Resort to carry out a program of planning for the Valley. Joshua shared the progress on two efforts from the Mad River Valley on tackling flood resiliency and recovery. The first is an EPA funded project “Planning for Flood Recovery & Long Term Resilience in Vermont: Smart Growth Approaches for Disaster Resilient Communities”. Currently they are exploring how to communicate the role of stormwater management valley-wide with “Managing Stormwater Together in a Post Irene Mad River Valley!”. Afterwards the participants had an opportunity to discuss the key learnings from the presentation and the work that is being done in other parts of the state to create more resilient communities.
After all of the land based workshops on resilience in our watershed, the final workshop took an economic development direction that enabled us to hear about the Climate Economy and ways that we can thrive in a changing climate. Paul Costello, the Executive Director of the Vermont Council and Rural Development (VCRD) and spearhead of the recent Climate Change Economy Initiative joined us to discuss opportunities and resilience in climate change and how change can provide economic and creative solutions.
We also heard via phone from Brian Voigt, the UVM professor who led a research project on the direct correlation between water quality/clarity and the economy. “The UVM study shows that with a decrease of just one meter of water clarity, Vermont lakeside communities would lose $16.8 million in economic activity, and approximately 200 full-time jobs. Seasonal homes would depreciate in value by 37 percent, and year round single family homes would suffer a three percent loss, according to the report, “An Assessment of the Economic Value of Clean Water in Lake Champlain.””