runningOn Sunday, September 8th, Friends of Northern Lake Champlain is hosting the 4th AUDI Annual Run for the Lake.  This event on the shores of Lake Champlain at the Georgia Beach is a great opportunity for families, and friends to come and run or walk for the Friends of Northern Lake Champlain and show your support for the work we are doing to try and clean the Lake by reducing polluted run-off into from the land.  Registration begins at 8am and the run or walk will start at 9am.  The cost is $25 per person or $70 for a family.  You can click here to register online at Active.com. 

Summer Farm Field Days

Bridgeman View Farm, Friends of Northern Lake Champlain (FNLC), University of Vermont Extension, Friends of Northern Lake Champlain (FNLC), and Champlain Valley Equipment collaborate for a great Summer Field Day.

On a hot Thursday in July, farmers, lake advocates, scientist, educators, and government officials were in Franklin

Summer Field Day Tour

Summer Field Day Tour

touring Bridgeman View Farm, owned by Tim and Martha Magnant to see the work that he has done on his farm to implement water and soil management practices that will improve his soil nutrient health, as well as reduce nutrient and soil losses that eventually find their way to Lake Champlain.  “Reducing the amount of nutrients that are lost due to erosion and run-off is a win-win for both the farmers and the Lake,” stated Kent Henderson, Chair of FNLC.  He continued to state that “FNLC and our partners are working to find solutions that are both economically viable for the farmers and will have an impact on our water quality.”

Over 60 people attended this day-long program in the heat of July to tour Bridgeman View Farm and attend presentations about tile drainage, no till planting, and precision feed management, as well as an update on the monitoring work that FNLC has been conducting in the Rock River Watershed.

“The challenges Lake Champlain faces today are a reflection of fifty, or more, years of inadequate public policy. But times are changing, and we are now working together to ensure a brighter future for the lake,” said Chuck Ross, Vermont Secretary of Agriculture.  “The agricultural community can’t be blamed as the sole source of this problem, but can be credited for stepping up and taking action to make things right, going forward. The folks in this room, along with many partners, are part of a larger group working to right the course and implement policies and practices that will preserve the integrity of the lake for future generations.”

Heather Darby from UVM Extension gave a presentation on Precision Feed Management that they have just started, looking at the feed side of farming in an effort to manage the amount of nutrients that are being brought onto the farm, as she explained it, they are looking at the other end of the cow.  Eric Young from Miner Institute gave a presentation on the research they are conducting that is evaluating the phosphorous, nitrogen, and sediment levels coming out of tile drains (a practice commonly used to lower the water table on wet fields) on a field versus the amount coming off in surface run-off in a conventionally planted corn field.  Lastly, the participants heard about different farming practices that help to keep nutrients in the soil and build the soils in their fields. Examples of these presented by Jeff Sanders from UVM Extension are: no-till or mulch till planting versus conventional, which reduces the amount of soil that is disturbed; cover cropping helps to prevent soil loss in the spring and fall when corn fields are bare; grassed waterways, which help to reduce the amount of erosion that runs through a field by planting a consistently wet area of a field with grass instead of a row crop; and manure injection, which literally injects manure directly into the soil instead of spraying it over the surface.  Heather Darby from UVM Extension stated that “all of these practices are very important to helping with nutrient loss and soil erosion.  Cover cropping, especially in areas where the landscape is sloped and soils are dense is an extremely effective tool in preventing nutrient run-off and building better soils.”  UVM Extension is currently offering an aerial seeding program to farmers that are interested in planting a cover crop in the fall.  For more information on this or to learn how to enroll your farm, you can contact Jeff Sanders at UVM Extension at 802-524-6501 or jeffrey.sanders@uvm.edu.

FNLC delivers two educational meetings per year for farmers, government officials, educators, and lake advocates in an effort to bring people that are working on water quality issues together to network, learn, and discuss field practices and ideas that will help with the collective reduction of nutrient run-off in our watershed.  FNLC is a 501c3 non-profit working to reduce the non-point source pollution in the Missisquoi Basin.  For more information about this program or about FNLC, please contact Denise Smith, Executive Director at 802-355-0694 or denisefnlc@gmail.com.

Dear Lake:

Dear Lake: I hear you are sick. I have known about it for awhile, but I was busy and I did not know it was my fault. I guess it is because of your diet and what I have been feeding you. Over the years, I have been putting more and more run-off into the streams that feed you and I guess I just did not realize that it would make you SO sick. I am trying to get others to help me make you better. Hopefully we are not too late. Please get better soon. Signed Land.

Images from the week-end


Soil was well preserved during the rain this past week on a field with cross slope tillage and grass strips.


Storm water catch basins along the road at Jay Peak. Capturing runoff from the water draining down the hill.


The river runs brown.


Stormwater totally missing a storm drain on Prospect Street in St. Albans, VT.


One of the many cornfields I saw under water on Saturday. Not a good start for the farmers or the Lake.


New stormwater bioretention basin at the Franklin County Senior Center in St. Albans, VT. Capturing run-off from a parking lot, a roof and Upper Newton Street.


The calm after the storm. Sunset at 8pm on Sunday night at Cohen Park in St. Albans, VT.

Water Flows Downhill and we are Biking around it!

April 24 – On June 22nd Friends of Northern Lake Champlain and Switchback Brewing Company are teaming up to present the Switchback Bike for the Lake around the Northern Lake – starting and enSwitchback logoding (with a “Guys & Grill Party” featuring Switchback Beer) at Sandbar State Park!  Participants can select from  25, 50,  70 mile rides or go all in and do the Century Ride that day!  What a great way to kick off the summer biking season with a great ride on relatively flat course around Lake Champlain!  While you are biking, you are also helping Friends of Northern Lake Champlain with our mission to Clean Lake Champlain!  Click here for a Registration Form.  See you on your bike!

Water Flows Downhill


Signs on Refuge Trail

April 6, 2013 – A beautiful morning and walk at the Missiquoi Wildlife Refuge, this 6729 acre refuge includes most of the Missisquoi River Delta where it flows into the Missisquoi Bay !  What a resource we have in our region.  I decided to take the kids with me and we were by far, the youngest people on the walk.  Everyone else appeared to be serious birders and when I unloaded the van with my 3 kids and a friend in tow, the comment from one of the walkers, was: “you have 4 of them?”  I wasn’t sure if I should join them, would they scare all the birds away?  We decided to go despite the cold wind and the mittens that did not quite fit properly and the “looks” from the serious birders.


Contemplating Black Creek

I, probably like many people have forgotten or taken for granted this natural gem hidden out past Swanton.  Once in awhile, I hear about an event at the Refuge or something Senator Leahy is doing out there, but on a regular basis, I do not make an effort to head to the Refuge for a walk or an outing.  Now, however, as the new “water girl”, as I have been referring to myself, I have a renewed interest in the Refuge and anything related to the water in our region.  This Delta, is for all intents and purposes, the catch basin for our watershed, and seeing it and appreciating it, is important to understanding the impact our actions upstream have on the Lake, or as Paul Stanley so eloquently stated:”What we do, or don’t do upstream has a direct impact on what happens in Lake Champlain.”

So, when I saw on their calendar that they were hosting a nature walk this morning, we loaded up and headed over.  I have to say, it was spectacular in there this morning.  The blue sky and sun shone through the tree branches, as the trails meander around the delta.  We didn’t see many birds, and I am not sure if this was due to the noise my kids were making or the fact that it was very cold, but it didn’t really matter.  The quiet places of contemplation, well maintained trail, and being around other people that love and appreciate the natural world, made our journey to the Refuge magical!  It helped to have Joe thank us for coming and say how nice it was to have the children on the walk and we were welcome anytime.  I’ll take him up on that!

Water Flow Downhill

March 22, 2013

Last week I attended the Vermont Environmental Consortium’s (VEC) 2nd Annual Water Conference.  I did not know what to expect or who would be there, but I have to say that the people, presenters, information and agenda was extremely well put together and I found the content to be valuable.  The discussion about the Lake and problems caused by storm water and runoff are creating a situation that continues to create an ecological imbalance.  There are many causes for why our Lake and our streams are continuing to get worse, not better, but the reason that I’d like to focus on in this blog entry today is soil and the reduction of soil as we continue to build houses, roads, and buildings.  soil

The question came at the end of the day from an unsuspecting source, a farmer from Shelburne, Vermont.  He politely asked “if we all really thought that a few rain barrels would offset the rapid phases of development our state has seen in the last 50 years?”

You see every time we remove soil and and build a 6000 square foot house or put in a new road, we are messing with Mother Nature who has created the perfect solution to capturing and filtering water.  As we remove more and more soil for our own purposes, there is less of it to capture, hold, and filter the water thereby creating stronger runoff, more erosion, and more sediment and nutrients ending up in our basin.  The farmer spoke about an old willow tree on the banks of a river that ran through his yard and how he had always thought the tree would be there long after he was gone, but to his surprise, that beautiful willow tree is now lying down in the river because of the eroding banks along the river.  Upstream houses are being built, roads constructed, cities created and soil and earth are disappearing. Willow

I grew up in Charlotte, so I know the area that he speaks of and in my parent’s yard stands a couple of beautiful old willow trees, so I can relate to that feeling of thinking something that grand will be there forever.  I now live in St. Albans, Vermont with my husband and three children and I, like many of you, are witnessing the landscape change before our very eyes.  Recently the constructing began on the much contested Walmart on the outskirts of town.  I drive by the site often, as it is on the way to the grocery store (3 kids – I go to the grocery store a lot).  It is astonishing to me the amount of soil that is being moved, removed and dug up.  The Walmart is being built on prime ag soil that is rare and irreplaceable.  I did not get involved in the conversations about Walmart and do not feel strongly about them coming to my region one way or the other, but the dots started to connect for me during this dialog about the soil at the water quality conference last week.

Water needs soil and the more soil we lose, the worse our waters become.  Sometimes I feel like the issues we are dMissisquoi 2ealing with are insurmountable and that we will not be able to fix what we have broken.  I feel like it is partly my job, as the Friends Director to learn about what is happening, reflect on it, and help others understand it by bringing awareness to it.  Do I think that some rain barrels will counteract the millions of miles of roads we are building, the thousands of square feet of buildings we are building, or the hundreds of acres of soil we are dispersing and digging?  No, not really, but maybe the rain barrels are a tool to help us start  a conversation, to help people become aware, and to start to feel like we are part of the solution and not just the problem.