Assessment and Planning

Over the years, the Friends have led or partnered on the completion of a number of studies in the watershed. These includes road erosion studies, water quality monitoring, and stormwater outfall assessments that you can read about on our Stormwater and Water Quality pages.  

What is a Stream Geomorphic Assessment?

Nearly every stream and river in the state of Vermont is undergoing change. Sometimes these changes are natural or imperceptible. Other times--and more often--streams and rivers are adjusting to channel, flood plain, or watershed changes imposed in years past by human activity. For a visual example of this phenomenon check out this short video.


Understanding the natural tendencies of a stream, its current condition, and what changes may be anticipated in the future is invaluable to making sound protection, management, and restoration decisions.

A stream geomorphic assessment is systematic approach to understanding the forces impacting a particular stretch of a stream and how to best manage and protect the stream for multiple uses. The SGA examines factors that may be influencing the natural variations in the flow of the river, including dams, culverts, bridges, mining of gravel, eroding river banks, and the development of impervious surfaces (buildings, parking lots) in the corridor. This holistic view will allow for more effective projects to be developed on the river.

This video explains the Vermont River Management Program that implemented stream geomorphic assessment as a means of improving flood control practices.


An SGA is divided into three phases. Phase 1, the remote sensing phase, involves the collection of data from topographic maps and aerial photographs, from existing studies, and from very limited field studies, called “windshield surveys.” The Phase 1 remote sensing techniques allow for large watersheds to be assessed within a few months time. The Phase 1 assessment is used to flag problem reaches and to determine where to pursue more extensive field studies in Phase 2.

Phase 2, the field assessment phase, involves the collection of field data at the reach or sub-reach scale. The Phase 2 assessment identifies specific reaches for protection and restoration projects and the completion of Phase 3 assessments. In Phase 3, the survey-level field assessment phase, the focus is on the final data requirements for the design and implementation of river corridor protection or restoration projects.

You can find more detailed information including the State protocols at

North Branch

The Friends, along with our partners the Winooski Natural Resources Conservation District (WNRCD) and the Central Vermont Regional Planning Commission (CVRPC), completed the Phase I assessment in the North Branch. We also had considerable help from energetic volunteers recruited and led by the Worcester Conservation Commission. In 2007, Phase II field work was completed.

Kingsbury Branch

The Friends also partnered with the WNRCD and the CVRPC to conduct a Phase I and Phase II assessment on the Kingsbury Branch. Phase I was completed in May 2007. The Phase II field survey was conducted by a consultant on a subset of high priority stream reaches.

Marshfield Corridor Plan

In Marshfield, there is interest by a number of large riparian landowners to better protect and manage the river corridor for geomorphic stability, habitat protection, recreational opportunities and improved water quality. The Phase I and II assessment data gathered in 2005-2006, with landowner input, was used to develop specific protection strategies for the river corridor.

Basin Planning

The Friends have been an active participant in the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Basing Planning for the Winooski River Watershed. The Basin Plan will include goals developed by the citizens of the watershed. DEC is soliciting input through public meetings and other means for the upper watershed (the headwaters to Bolton Dam). The lower watershed process (below Bolton dam) will start in the near future. Collaboration with local conservation organizations, municipal officials, conservation commissions and state/federal staff will be critical for the plan to be successful.

The plan will include strategies to restore impaired waters (those rivers/streams that are not meeting the Vermont Water Quality Standards), along with summaries of water quality and natural resource assessments that have been completed in the watershed. Interested citizens will be asked to contribute local knowledge of the watershed and to help identify opportunities for protection and restoration projects. DEC will provide technical assistance and coordinate funding necessary to reach the goals of the Basin Plan.