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Spotlight on Public Access Greeter Program: Waterbury Reservoir

Visitors to Waterbury Reservoir may have encountered something new at the lake this year: a nice young man wearing a yellow “Public Access Greeter” shirt. This summer was the inaugural year for a Public Access Greeter Program at Waterbury Reservoir, which was established by Friends of Waterbury Reservoir (FWR) with assistance from the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation’s aquatic nuisance control grant-in-aid program. A part-time greeter, along with a motivated group of volunteers from FWR, offered invasive species education and boat inspections at multiple launch sites around this aquatic gem in central Vermont.

The 860-acre reservoir receives over 60,000 combined visitors to the state parks on the shores of the lake, as well as three public access sites. This year, the greeter and volunteers focused their efforts on the heavily used Blush Hill boat access area. They kept a keen eye out for watercraft and trailers that might be bearing Eurasian watermilfoil, which is not present in the reservoir. Another goal was to contain the spread of brittle naiad, an easily spread invasive plant currently found in portions of the reservoir but rare in other Vermont waterbodies.

During the course of the summer, the greeter and FWR volunteers had over 400 individual interactions with boaters. In three instances, boats were intercepted before leaving the reservoir with live plants attached, and in two of those instances, the species in question were invasive. Luckily, no plant material was found on boats or trailers launching into the reservoir, but there were four occasions when excessive water was drained from boats coming from other lakes. Small-bodied invasive organisms, such as spiny water fleas and juvenile zebra mussels, can be transported in very small amounts of water, so ensuring boats enter the lake drained of water is a primary concern of any public access greeter program.

According to FWR, the inaugural year of the program was highly successful. Zach Johnston, the part-time greeter, did a great job engaging people in conversations and answering questions about the program. FWR noted that they were happily surprised by how interested and appreciative folks were that a greeter was present at the reservoir and that many had further questions about invasive species in general and were interested in the printed material handed out.

Some encouraging words from Chuck Kletecka and Laurie Smith, who administered the program for FWR:

“Overall, the program went really well for our first year. Although we did not have many interceptions, we were able to educate many people and introduce them to the dangers of invasive species introductions. One common thread between all the people we interacted with was the love of Waterbury Reservoir. We hope this summer was just the start of future efforts by the State and FWR to share the ‘love’ and keep our beloved reservoir the beautiful resource it is for years to come.”

Better amenities on the way for public at Waterbury Reservoir

Vermont Business Magazine Eight months of work is underway to improve public access areas at the Waterbury Reservoir. The project will require temporary closures at some sites while work is underway, and will include improvements to parking lots, erosion prevention, and boat ramp upgrades. The locations include Waterbury Dam Boat Launch, Blush Hill Boat Launch and the Moscow Paddler Access. Green Mountain Power (GMP) will be doing the work as part of the company’s commitment to improving the Waterbury Dam and surrounding areas. GMP recently received a renewed license from the Federal Energy Regulation Commission to operate a hydropower generation facility at the Waterbury Dam.

The Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation says the popularity of the Waterbury Reservoir is growing. “The improvements that Green Mountain Power will make over the next 8 months could not come at a better time,” said Susan Bulmer, Northeast State Parks Regional Manager.

 “We know what a valuable community resource this waterway is and we’re glad to work with the state to make these important upgrades,” said Jason Lisai, Green Mountain Power’s Director of Generation Operations.

As part of the Green Mountain Power improvements, a parking area, river access, and anglers’ trail were recently installed along Little River Road just downstream of Waterbury Dam. The trail was constructed as a collaborative effort with the Vermont state trail crew and GMP. This river access is currently open to the public for use.

All three locations will be finished for the 2019 summer season. Long-term maintenance and management will be performed by the Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation.

Waterbury Reservoir is the ninth largest waterbody in Vermont, created in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps as a flood control project. There are two State Parks and 30 remote campsites located on its shores and many people access the reservoir for boating, wildlife viewing, swimming, camping, and fishing each year. Waterbury Reservoir is surrounded almost completely by state land, managed primarily by the Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation as part of the 44,444-acre Mount Mansfield State Forest.

Scheduled Closures:

Waterbury Dam Boat Launch

Closed: October 14 – November 8, 2018 and February 8 – February 18, 2019

Site improvements will include:

  • Installation of a new composting toilet
  • Installation of a concrete boat launch
  • Paving of the access road and parking area (may occur in Spring 2019 depending on weather conditions)
  • Erosion control and site drainage improvements
  • Traffic flow improvements

Blush Hill Boat Launch

Closed: November 9 – November 27, 2018 and February 19 – February 27, 2019

Site improvements will include:

  • Installation of a concrete boat launch
  • Re-grading the parking area
  • Guard rail installation
  • Erosion control and site drainage improvements

Moscow Paddler Access

Closed: November 28 – December 6, 2018

Site improvements will include:

  • Installation of a concrete hand carry access ramp
  • Re-grading the parking area
  • Erosion control and site drainage improvements

Contact us for more information.…

Waterbury Reservoir’s future could be at risk

The Waterbury Reservoir’s many swimming and boating possibilities drew 42,000 people this summer to the state park. Photo by Gordon Miller/Stowe Reporter
The Waterbury Reservoir’s many swimming and boating possibilities drew 42,000 people this summer to the state park. Photo by Gordon Miller/Stowe Reporter

An argument about how to run the flood-control dam that creates the reservoir could lead to a decision to stop filling up the reservoir for summertime use.

And the reservoir gets a ton of summertime use. It is the centerpiece of Waterbury Center State Park, which is wrapping up a record-breaking season. This summer, more than 42,000 visitors have enjoyed swimming, boating, picnicking and hiking through the park, not to mention the naturalist programs that the park enables.

The reservoir’s future revolves around a new license for Green Mountain Power’s hydropower plant at the base of the flood-control dam. The utility has operated the hydro plant since 1953, but its license lapsed nearly two decades ago. Now, the company is seeking a new license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

In addition, a permit is required from the watershed management division within the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation.

Permit questions like these involve a balancing of hydropower benefits and environmental concerns.

The state agency will look at “everything from the effects on habitats, overall water quality, water temperatures, sediment levels as well as how the water flows and what happens to water downstream,” said Jeff Crocker, a river ecologist with the watershed division.

Those concerns also involve the effects on fish and other wildlife from raising and lowering the reservoir’s level season by season.

Now, the reservoir is drawn down to 562 feet above sea level in the winter, making room for the spring runoff that, except for the Waterbury dam, could cause flooding. The drawdown shrinks the surface area of the reservoir by 40 percent.

Once the runoff ends, the reservoir level is increased to 589 feet above sea level, creating the swimming-boating mecca at the state park.

The watershed division is concerned that the lowering and raising of water levels does not meet current water standards, said Bill Shepeluk, Waterbury’s municipal manager.

If the decision is to keep water levels low, then recreation at the reservoir would come to an end.

Shepeluk suspects state and federal officials have no idea of the furor that the reservoir debate will cause.

This is what the Waterbury Reservoir looked like for seven years after it was drained in 2000 for dam construction work. The 850-acre summer swimming and boating center all but vanished. Photo by Gordon Miller/Stowe Reporter

“This is a big issue to Waterbury residents, and people will be surprised at how passionate everyone feels about these things,” he predicted.

The community will have a chance to weigh in on the situation at a meeting tentatively scheduled for Oct. 7 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Thatcher Brook Primary School.

Competing interests

The Waterbury dam was finished in 1938 to prevent the kind of flooding that devastated Waterbury and other Vermont communities in 1927.

The dam holds back the water from the Little River, which flows south from Stowe toward the Winooski River. The Little River carries the runoff from the Stowe valley, including massive winter snowmelt from Mount Mansfield and the western side of the Worcester mountain range.

Once the reservoir was created, fish, loons and other flora and fauna made it their home.

Waterbury has already had a seven-year taste of what life would be like without the reservoir. In 2000, the reservoir was drained so construction workers could shore up the dam; the job took seven years and $24 million.

Shepeluk said Green Mountain Power tends to keep the summertime water level as close to 589 feet above sea level as possible, with a 1-foot leeway up or down. It uses that 2-foot range to generate electricity.

“These 2 feet of fluctuations don’t cause tremendous problems, but they can have a significant effect on water quality,” Shepeluk said.

The watershed division would prefer a permit that says the reservoir depth can’t flucuate up and down, Shepeluk said. Ultimately, it would like the water level to remain low, close to the normal wintertime level, he said.

If the water level is low, Green Mountain Power can still produce electricity from the Little River’s flow. But the hydropower would be less reliable. Now, adjusting the reservoir height ensures a steady flow of water through Green Mountain Power’s turbine, but a shrunken reservoir would make the hydropower dependent on the weather — similar to the utility’s other river-run facilities across the state.

Another option is to keep the reservoir even lower, near 550 feet above sea level — a 39-foot reduction in the normal summertime depth.

In this balancing of competing interests, Shepeluk said the hydropower plant, the environment and recreation could all be losers.

“We will be looking at solutions to allow all the stakeholders to get what they want,” he said.

While Crocker wouldn’t comment in detail, he said “there’s a possibility of changes to the recreation proportions of things but the opportunity would still exist. The parks may have to be redesigned.”…

4 Simple Tips For Improving The Health Of Your Irrigation Dam

It’s a simple truth that the better the health of your irrigation dam, the better the quality of the water that you use for irrigation.

Unfortunately, when left to their own devices, irrigation dams are plagued by the same issues as any other type of man-made water body and this isn’t great for your crops.

We’re often asked about what solutions irrigators should put in place to ensure top water quality and whether they can use the same methods for improving the health of their dam as those who aren’t pulling water out every other day. So, to provide some clarity (pun intended), this one’s just for our irrigating friends, read on to discover our four simple tips for improving the health of your irrigation dam:

Install A Dam Aerator.

Aeration - Total Pumps

In regard to dam aeration, irrigation dams can be treated much like any other water body.

The purpose of installing a dam aerator is to boost dissolved oxygen levels within the dam so the efficiency of your dam aeration system will not be impacted by irrigation activities.

Not only with this additional oxygen boost the health of your dam, it can also improve the quality of your soil as well aerated water is the perfect environment for beneficial aerobic bacteria (more on that later).

Make Use Of Dam Liner.

Pond Liner Replacement

Admittedly, this one is a lot easier during the construction stage but if you find yourself in a situation where your dam is empty (or close enough) installing a dam liner can be a big help in improving your irrigation water quality, clarity and irrigation efficiency.

If your dam is one of the ones that’s simply a hole in the ground that collects and holds rainwater, you’ve probably got a lot of nutrient leaching from the soil into your water. This excess nutrient is the perfect food for algae and aquatic weeds, two issues which can easily suffocate your aquatic ecosystem if allowed to get out of hand.

Plus, the addition of a dam liner prevents dirt particles from rising out of the soil into your dam meaning it will be much less likely to turn brown and muddy.

Our top recommendation for dam liner is EPDM rubber but we can also supply other varieties to suit your needs.

Apply Biological Water Treatments.

What Is a Biological Wastewater Treatment System and How Does It Work?

The application of biological water treatments can also greatly improve the health and water quality of your irrigation dam.

Biological water treatments, like the WaterTreats Biostim range, are natural products crafted from beneficial bacteria and the micronutrients that support these bacteria.

Our top recommendation for treating irrigation dams is Biostim Pellets. This is because the pellets work in the sludge layer at the bottom of your dam rather than in the water column which makes them far less likely to be pumped out when it comes time to irrigate.

Did you know that the same aerobic bacteria that live in your dam also live in soil?

This means that as an added benefit, applying biological water treatments to your dam can also help improve the health of your crops by transforming nasties into beneficial nutrients. The more oxygen you have in your dam, the more your beneficial bacteria populations will flourish and dosing your dam with a biological water treatment further supports the health of your existing bacteria while also adding more.

Obviously you don’t want to dose with a treatment that is going to be sucked straight back out when you irrigate so the application of Biostim Pellets will ensure you treat the areas you want or need to while also supporting the pre-existing bacteria living in your water column which will then be carried to your fields and look after your crops.

Plant Out Your Dam Banks.

Planting the banks of any dam is a good idea to assist in filtration but it is a particularly important improvement for irrigation dams. This is because you most likely have pesticides and other chemicals making their way into your water, be it from your own crop fields or your neighbours. This isn’t great for the bacteria living in your dam and can be fatal for any fishy friends you have in high enough quantities.

By planting hardy species around the banks of your dam, you will achieve both mechanical and biological filtration of any runoff that makes its way into your dam. The helps protect your water quality and crops from any adverse effects which may come from contaminated run off.

Planting out your banks also reduces soil and bank erosion which helps defend against water clarity issues.

Bonus Tip: Apply A Pump Defender.

Matala Pump Defenders are traditionally designed for the protection of submersible pumps, but we received word from Dural Irrigation and some of our other irrigation store stockists that they’re flying off shelves for use with foot valve strainers.

This led to a fairly decent rabbit hole of research, but we are now satisfied with what we found and happily recommend Pump Defenders for this purpose.

Pump Defenders are essentially premium quality filter media in a mesh bag which makes them super easy to install and highly beneficial for your irrigation system. Not only will they greatly reduce the chances of your irrigation system clogging, they will also provide a home for beneficial bacteria right near your irrigation intake which (as noted in the biological water treatment section of this post) is great for improving soil quality as well.

By implementing these tips you can easily improve the health of your irrigation dam and, by extension, that of your crops. These tips will work best when all utilised together, however if you only make a few changes, we strongly suggest that you start by installing a dam aerator and beginning a biological water treatment plan. These two options will have the biggest impact on your water quality and are also vital for the health of any fish stocked in your dam.

Our friendly expert team are always happy to help so do not …

Check out the Waterbury Reservoir For Fun This Summer

Let’s face it, 2020 and 2021 have been really strange years. With the COVID-19 crisis dumped in our laps suddenly last March, it seems like life came to a standstill. We were stuck inside, limited, and prevented from going just about anywhere and facing an uncertain road ahead.

As summer arrived, at least we were all able to get out and enjoy a bit of fresh air. The question then became where to go and what to do in the days of “social distancing”. It has also been a very hot and humid summer with very little rain. One place that I had never visited before was the Waterbury State Park reservoir and dam.

It’s a bit off the beaten path, a quarter-mile off VT Route 100, but perhaps that is what’s so great about it. The day I visited, there were only a few people there and plenty of solitude, summer breezes, and the sound of the water cascading over the dam.

Waterbury Reservoir is also a great place to fish and sometimes there can be quite a few people taking advantage of that along with swimming and wading in the water. There is also a picnic area and places to have a small bonfire near the parking area.

The Waterbury Reservoir is the ninth-largest body of water in the state of Vermont. It was created in the 1930s by the Vermont Civilian Conservation Corps as a flood control project to protect towns and villages along the Winooski River Valley.