SAAWA Annual Meeting 2019
Thanks to everyone who came out for the Annual Meeting on Thursday, August 29th. It is always energizing to gather with SAAWA members who care about the Bay and continue to join together every year to tell the story of what the Bay used to be like (before industrial dairy), and what it could be again if we could finally stop the overflow of nutrients to the lake and restore water quality.
We are grateful to this year's speaker, David Mears, for his encouraging and engaging talk. We all know the solutions to water quality are complex, and will take time and patience. David spoke about valuing the working, rural landscape of Vermont but also spoke of the need for a new approach. Vermont's dairy industry is struggling and may have reached an inflection point. The State has spent an enormous amount of money with marginal results. David advocated for considering transition of some portion of working lands to more diverse operations or new purposes such as managed forest. Transitions can be difficult, but he acknowledged that there is some land which simply might not be appropriate for agriculture. There might be solutions that can help both farmers and the lake. We need to continue this conversation, including the agriculture community, to determine what those might be.
SAAWA members voted to continue the same slate of Directors for another year. Steve Langevin will continue as president, Jody Dunklee as vice president, Jeff Moulton as secretary and Josh Koldys as treasurer.
SAAWA is an all-volunteer organization and needs your help to make our voice heard. Please make this the year that you jump in and join us. It's a great way to learn more about water quality issues and volunteer in the grass roots of your community to push for real change and clean water. Please email us if you would like to attend a Board meeting and we will include you in the meeting notices.
2019 Restore the Bay 5K
Saturday, July 27th
This year's Restore the Bay 5K took place Saturday, July 27th in conjunction with the 14th Star Brewing Co. Homegrown Music Festival. It was a great day with runners of all ages spanning from 6 years to our most seasoned runner at 87 years old. After the 5K, prizes were awarded and lucky raffle winners were chosen. There were some informal relays for younger children.
Proceeds from the 5K benefit the summer weed harvesting program as well as SAAWA efforts to improve water quality in St. Albans Bay..
This year we featured information by our partners at Raise the Blade -- a campaign to reduce runoff and improve the health of your soil. Cut grass to 3", leave the clippings and follow the 1/3 rule for healthier lawn and soil. Following the festivities, at 1 pm, 14th Star Brewing Co. presented a showcase of local musical talent at their Homegrown Music Festival. The music will run throughout the afternoon and they will be served up their local craft brews, including a special new Kolsch brew from which a portion of proceeds will be donated to water quality efforts.
2019 Weed Harvesting Season Ramping Up
The St. Albans Area Watershed Association is again weed harvesting on St. Albans Bay. This will be SAAWA’s 15th season of harvester operation. Two workers have been employed this summer to operate the two weed harvesters and tractor which transports the harvested weeds from the Bay to composting sites. Weed harvesting began on July 15th, as per our permit, and will end September 15th.
Most noteworthy this season is the lack of weed growth. In prior years it was common to harvest 15 to 20 loads each day. This year, so far we have averaged three loads per day. Areas which are usually clogged with weeds have been essentially weed free. Factors which might explain the diminished weed growth are a cold winter with thick ice lasting into April, a wet spring resulting in the lake remaining above flood stage for 60 plus days, and colder water temperatures which lasted well into June.
The primary areas of operation are along the easterly shore of St. Albans Bay in the vicinity of Ferrand Road in Georgia and Bingham Shore Road in the Town of St. Albans, south from Black Bridge for about ½ mile adjacent to Hathaway Point Road, and from the fishing access to Hathaway Point.
Weed harvesting has been shown to improve water quality by removing organic matter which otherwise decomposes in the Bay, allows for better water circulation and removes nutrients which feed algae blooms.
Funding for weed harvesting is provided by The Town of St. Albans ($7,500.00). the Town of Georgia ($2,500.00) , the City of St. Albans ($10,000.00) and an Aquatic Nuisance Control Grant-in-Aid awarded by the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation in the amount of $5,038.00, proceeds from the Restore the Bay 5K and donations by SAAWA members.
We encourage shoreline property owners to inform Steve Cushing, weed harvesting coordinator, of problem areas you experience around the Bay. We would be very happy to work with individuals to clean the shoreline of accumulated weeds. Steve can be reached at 782-5675.
Glyphosate: Increasing phosphorus runoff and toxic too?
SAAWA has been looking at work done on the effects of the broad-spectrum herbicide glyphosate and the damage its increasing use may have created in our watershed. Sold under the name Roundup, but also used in other herbicide formulations, farmers and property owners use glyphosate for weed control. Concerns are being raised not only regarding the toxic potential of this substance, but also regarding the effect that surfactants in the glyphosate solutions have on speeding delivery of phosphorus and other nutrients into the lake. Studies are being done around Lake Erie which seem to connect the use of glyphosate to a dramatic increase in nutrient runoff. In our area, densely planted with corn, this is a great concern. We believe this is a subject that has been largely ignored, despite widespread use in our watershed, and the Board is working to bring attention to what is potentially a huge problem in our area.
Food for thought... "Sweatshop Dairy?"
From an article in Vermont Digger by Michael Colby and Will Allen: SAAWA has been raising this issue for some time now. We are not anti-farm, and there are many farmers out there trying to do the right thing, but the rise of big farming in our area has certainly not been compatible with clean water. We see it daily. Not only that, it does not seem profitable for the farmers. This is a discussion that needs to be had.
Vermont agriculture exists in what seems to be two parallel universes, one in our minds and the other in reality. When people are asked to think about or imagine Vermont farming, they’ll inevitably mention grass and pastures and grazing cows, all with a perfect blue sky and just the right puffy clouds. It’s a well-marketed image, and comes attached to flavors like Cherry Garcia and slogans like “farmer owned.”
But the reality is much different. Because a vast majority of Vermont’s agriculture – more than 70 percent — is all about commodity-driven, nonorganic dairy production, where GMO crops dominate, cows are on concrete, gorged and fully dosed with an array of pharmaceuticals, fields are bathed in toxic pesticides, and our waterways are declared impaired as a result of the nitrogen and phosphorus-rich farm runoff.
Green Mountain Power Manure Digester Update:
Manure Digester Update, August 2017
Please see longer article in our current newsletter.
It appears the Dunsmore Road Digester project has been revived by a Massachusetts company according to a recent Messenger article. Once again, plans call for bringing food and other organic waste down to the banks of Jewett Brook, an already impaired tributary to St. Albans Bay, to be mixed with manure and farm waste for processing. We want reassurance about the safety of the proposed facility and its concrete benefit to the lake. In addition, risks of spills or malfunctions which could be devastating to the lake, must be eliminated. In the past, projects such as this serve mainly to increase the impact of industrial farming in this watershed, encouraging a more cows, more corn, more debt model which isn't working. This project generates many serious questions which we will be raising at the state level.
Update Dec 2016
We believe the GMP digester project may be on hold. We have requested an update from GMP.
SAAWA met with representatives from Green Mountain Power in June to express our concerns regarding the proposed manure digester on Dunsmore Road. At that time, GMP was not able to fully answer our concerns regarding whether the digester will contribute to cleaner water in the Bay or simply create a situation enabling more cows and corn field runoff.
We remain concerned about spills at this sensitive location (a compromised waterway, Jewett Brook, feeding directly into the Bay ) and feel trucking in additional organic matter (food waste from other sources in Franklin County) does not seem like a good idea. At this time, GMP has no specific plans for removal of processed phosphorus from the watershed. They agreed to provide us with more information about safety precautions and process but we have not received it yet. It is our understanding that the project has been suspended pending further engineering review.
We were able to express our concerns to GMP that this is a large investment in big farming, which has great potential to adversely impact the Bay.
SAAWA has concerns about the multi-million GMP digester project proposed for Dunsmore Road. Our main concern is that clean water benefits for St. Albans Bay are unclear. Potential for spills is worrisome and the location is problematic.
Jewett Brook, which is directly adjacent to the proposed site, is already an impaired waterway which shows the negative effects (choking weeds, blue green algae blooms, dirty water) from nearby area runoff. It is not clear that this project will improve the water quality in any way and, in fact, has the potential to make it much worse by bringing in additional manure and food waste from a 50 mile radius. We are seeking more information on this issue and have submitted our concerns to the PSB. Read more on this topic here.
SAAWA is focused on real, in-lake cleanup measures, as well as pressing for better land-use practices in the watershed. We are currently exploring the addition of a shoreline conveyor to make weed harvesting more efficient, methods of transporting weeds farther from the watershed, and better ways to combat blue-green algae which recent studies increasingly show may be a serious health hazard.
Weed harvesting improves water quality and clarity by removing
excess weeds, increasing water circulation, and reducing conditions
that contribute to algae blooms. In addition, it is the only activity
currently occurring which reduces phosphorus already in the