Phase II and Phase III of the North Branch River Corridor study is now complete. The Johnson Company’s report, prepared for the Central Vermont Regional Planning Commission and the Friends of the Winooski River, have identified sensitive areas of the river in Worcester that need restoration and protection if the North Branch is to sustain its current water quality.
Currently the North Branch drains approximately 78 square miles of watershed. It is considered largely undeveloped and thus poses good opportunities for river corridor restoration. As the Johnson Company report concludes, the goal “is to find the areas within the watershed where a balance can be reached between human investments where development has occurred and the health and well-being of the river system.”
Ninety-two possible projects are proposed in the report of varying significance. Worcester has sixty-five that are rated from low to high priority. Of these the report has fifteen high priority areas on the main stem, three on Worcester Brook, two on Minister Brook and one on Hancock Brook.
The 70 acre Green Crow property was purchased in 2007 by the Vermont River Conservancy through grants and fundraising. This property on the Worcester-Elmore Town line is now under the supervision of the Vermont Department of Forests and Parks.
Late in 2007 the Vermont River Conservancy negotiated the sale of a 1.7 acre parcel on Hancock Brook that is now owned by the town and will remain in its natural state.
Several riparian tree and brush plantings have taken place in Worcester in the last year. Three of these have been on the main stem and one on Worcester Brook with the design being to stabilize the river banks where an “incised reach” is noted. A number of Worcester residents have participated in these projects.
Just this month, with the assistance of the state flood management team, a meeting was held at the Town Hall for property owners whose property was identified as within the 100 year flood plain to explain flood insurance, development constraints, and protective measures.
The 2009-10 Legislature passed House Bill 763 “River Corridor Protection.” This bill requires the state to help cities and towns adopt local river corridor protection regulations in order to keep our rivers and streams clean, stable and insulated from flood damage. We don’t yet know how this will affect Worcester.
The Vermont River Conservancy is presently raising funds to acquire an especially important 83 acre parcel on the North Branch of the Winooski River that supports and abundance of wildlife. VRC is also looking upstream to conserve many swimming holes, waterfalls, white water kayak runs and pristine riparian woodlands further up in the watershed. All support is welcome. To find out more, look up VRC at www.vermontriverconservancy.org or call us at 802-229-0820.
The North Branch is an incredible natural resource but it is subject to abuse unless measures are taken to protect it. If you would like more information about protection and restoration, feel free to contact:
Ann Smith, Executive Director, Friends of the Winooski River
PO Box 777, Montpelier VT 05601
Phone: 866-683-7197 (Tollfree)