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Lamoille County Conservation District

posted Jul 1, 2015, 6:43 AM by Lyn Munno   [ updated Sep 15, 2015, 10:47 AM ]

The Lamoille County Conservation District (LCCD) was established in 1945, under Vermont’s Soil Conservation Act of 1939. Vermont’s 14 Districts originated as local boards that guided the activities of what is now the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service. Originally focused on agricultural soil erosion during post-Dust Bowl years, Vermont’s Districts have expanded their scope to address water quality across the landscape. Though its territory theoretically includes Lamoille County, the District is involved with projects throughout the Lamoille River watershed. The map at right shows Lamoille County's location in the middle of the watershed.

Lamoille County Nature Center Summer Camp

Among Conservation Districts, LCCD is unique in that it oversees a 40-acre nature preserve, Lamoille County Nature Center. The land was purchased in the early 1960's to allow vocational students to learn about forestry and agricultural practices. The idea of the "nature center" expanded LCCDs mission to include environmental education programs to meet the needs of the people of Northern Vermont. The preserve offers two self-guided nature trails, a small pond, an amphitheater, a willow nursery, and a council size Sioux tipi where summer programs take place under the direction of Carrie Riker, the Education Coordinator.  Carrie also coordinates the state-wide Envirothon program, where student teams focus on Vermont's environmental issues related to forestry, wildlife, soils and water resources through real-world learning in a teamwork environment.

LCCD District Manager Kim Jensen Komer bundles willows
volunteers at Lamoille County Nature Center.
Like all Conservation Districts, LCCD operates under the direction of a District Manager guided by a local committee of supervisors. Kim Jensen Komer, the current District Manager, has a background well suited to LCCD’s broad water-quality mission. Kim has worked in the environmental field for over twenty years as an educator, program manager, and director.  She has experience with several watershed groups on a variety of tasks ranging from restoration projects based on geomorphic assessments to the coordination of public participation for a large-scale EPA Cleanup Agreement on the Housatonic River.  Previously working at the Vermont Institute of Natural Science, Kim applied her natural science knowledge to include professional development for teachers and environmental citizenship.  Within the Lamoille Watershed, Kim has networked with educational providers, landowners, stakeholders, and field professionals to complete projects to improve water quality that include monitoring, riparian buffer installations, and green stormwater infrastructure projects.

School groups make great tree-planting crews.
LCCD has coordinated Trees for Streams, its signature riparian buffer program, since 1999.  In 2006 under Kim’s guidance the program expanded to include student service learning projects for environmental citizenship throughout the Lamoille River watershed while partnering with neighboring Conservation Districts. To-date the Trees for Streams program has helped plant over sixteen miles of streambank throughout the watershed. LCCD has worked with twenty schools and provided complementary watershed science education. Lamoille River Anglers

Vactor purchased by several towns, with LCCD assistance.
Association, Johnson State College, Sterling College, land trusts, and other community groups have also helped with plantings.

LCCD also helps land managers access shared equipment to implement best practices that avoid impacts to waterways. Portable skidder bridges, available for rent, provide temporary stream crossings that help loggers protect the streambeds and banks. LCCD also worked with area towns to finance a shared hydroseeder for seeding ditches and roadsides to reduce sediment in runoff, and later facilitated a similar collaborative purchase of a Vactor for cleaning sediments from roadside ditches and culverts.

Throughout the years, LCCD has identified and implemented a number of river corridor restoration and protection projects in the main tributaries of the Lamoille including the Gihon River, Centerville Brook, Wild Branch, and Elmore Branch watersheds, and Little River of the Winooski River. These projects include Conservation Reserve Enhancement Projects (CREP), river corridor easement projects, aquatic organism passage projects, floodplain restoration, and green stormwater infrastructure projects. (To see more information about Lamoille watershed projects by LCCD and other partners, see this story map developed by Lamoille Regional Planning Commission.)

Cars embedded in the riverbank prior to restoration.
Through one of its river corridor restoration and protection projects, LCCD addressed a long-standing floodplain problem where the Green River meets the Lamoille in Wolcott. Cars stashed along the river banks by an auto salvage yard had been embedded into the river bank over the years, preventing the river from accessing its floodplain and exacerbating erosion downstream. This project removed the rusted cars and established a 50-foot buffer to restore an acre of intact floodplain. Lamoille Union Middle and High School students and members of the Lamoille River Angler Association helped plant several hundred trees.

People's Academy Bioretention, before (above) and after (below).

Another example of LCCD's work to protect water quality, includes work with local schools to address sedimentation and non-point source pollutants entering local waterways. Lamoille Union and Peoples Academy schools both received assistance from LCCD to install green stormwater structures on the school grounds that slow runoff and reduce nutrients and sediment entering streams. The Peoples Academy project was first initiated by its Envirothon students. In 2014, LCCD furthered the students' initial investigations by securing grant funds to create and implement two projects on the campus - a bioretention area and large rain garden.  A similar larger project is proposed for the Johnson State College campus, to capture runoff from over 3 acres of impervious surface (roofs and pavement).

In 2013, LCCD worked closely with Caledonia NRCD, and the Vermont Association of Conservation Districts (VACD), to create and implement model statewide projects for all Vermont Conservation Districts to apply.  To date, LCCD has provided technical support and guidance for the Vermont Trees for Stream program and the Vermont Portable Skidder Bridge program.  Recently, Kim volunteered to work with Watersheds United Vermont to apply the same model to watershed groups statewide.   As Kim explains, “I like taking a collaborative approach, because it strengthens the success of watershed and river corridor protection and restoration projects for those all across the state who work so hard for a healthier and engaged community.”