Over the weekend, community volunteers geared up to help the rest of the Mad River Valley enjoy the 2020 swimming season. Friends of the Mad River has run its volunteer-driven Mad River Watch (MRW) water quality monitoring program since 1985 to get a sense of the watershed’s overall health, provide public health information to river users, and identify areas needing improvement. Monday, June 8th, was the first of six 2020 sampling dates – with one every other week from June through August.
Sampling results from the first round of Friends’ 2020 Mad River Watch water quality monitoring show no sites with unfavorable E. coli levels as of Monday morning. Thunderstorms on Friday and Saturday caused the river to crest at 5:15 Saturday evening at 260 cubic feet per second (cfs), flushing pollutants from the land into the water and downstream long before sampling Monday morning.
At the time of sampling on Monday morning, the river's discharge (volume per second) was down to 99.3 cfs at the US Geological Service flow gage in Moretown. The flow condition of the Mad River at the time of sampling Monday morning was Low and Steady (LS). The mean flow for this date over the last 90 years is 196 cfs; the water level is low for this time of year.
Remember that rains can cause E. coli levels to fluctuate, even on a daily basis, as water carrying pathogens moves down the watershed. FMR’s E. coli sampling results are only a snapshot in time intended to give you a sense of the conditions that lead to high pathogen levels in the water so you can be informed. You are your best protector - use common sense and don't swim for several days after a rain. It is estimated that at the level of 235 colonies E.coli per 100 mL water, approximately 8 out of every 1,000 swimmers are likely to contract a water borne illness related to fecal contamination.
2020 – Changes Afoot
For 2020, Friends pared the program back to its roots and isn’t taking samples for phosphorus, turbidity, or nitrogen analysis this year; instead, they’re only sampling E. coli from 12 swimhole sites and analyzing samples at their General Wait House lab. “Over the decades, Friends has used Mad River Watch data to guide many successful clean-up efforts,” said Executive Director, Corrie Miller. “We’re excited to be using the organization’s 30th Anniversary as an opportunity to redesign Mad River Watch so that it better meets clean water and community goals.” She adds, “A side benefit is that some of our tried and true volunteers are turning their efforts to taking care of swimholes and riparian restoration areas so we can explore how a caretaker program could benefit the community.”
This week, Paula Baldwin, who acted as MRW Lab Coordinator for four years, trained Lisa Koitzsch, a former Friends of the Mad River Coordinator and Fayston resident, to fill her shoes. Miller adds, “We feel fortunate to welcome Lisa back to this program, but also deeply grateful for the non-stop enthusiasm and dedication Paula breathed into Mad River Watch through these past four summers. We wish her well as she spends more time at the beach!” This week’s volunteers include: Charlie Baldwin, Sally Boudreau, Annie & Jula Fender, Rick Hungerford, Ruth Lacey, and Michael Ware.
For more information about E. coli and the Mad River Watch program or data visit this page. Throughout the summer, Mad River Watch results will be available in the Valley Reporter, on Facebook (“Friends of the Mad River”), on our website, and on sign posts at swimholes across the Valley.
Small Changes Add Up
As Vermonters take careful steps to rejoin larger communities, Friends has too by starting up our Storm Smart program this month. We postponed our usual in-person work this spring as a result of the coronavirus. As much as we wanted to get outside and into the community, it was clear that distancing was important for everyone’s health.
Now, with a flattening curve, safety protocols in place and an entirely outdoor program, we feel confident we can be safe and return to our work of building resilience into the landscape. The program is built around the assessment, where Ira, our stewardship coordinator, meets with homeowners or property managers and takes a close look at their yard, driveways, and homes. During the assessment we can maintain a safe distance outdoors and all of the follow-up can happen with email, phone, video chats or outdoors.
Resilience and Balance - Adapting to a Changing Climate
Since launching in 2018 as an outcome of the communitywide Ridge to River initiative, the Storm Smart program has offered FREE assessments on more than 70 properties and worked one on one with over 100 people in the Mad River Valley. The program has led to projects like rain gardens, native tree and shrub plantings, low mow zones and permeable driveways. Storm Smart is designed to find opportunities suited to the needs of each site. Then, together, the small actions of each household build a more resilient community.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration expects the 2020 hurricane season to be more active than normal. Changes in the intensity and distribution of storms can have severe impacts for communities like the Valley, a sobering lesson learned from Tropical Storm Irene. The greener, ‘spongier’ approach that the Storm Smart program takes to managing runoff mimics natural processes. Green infrastructure can absorb the impact of storms by holding onto and slowing water before it rushes downhill.
Friends has long focused on the idea that small, individual actions play a vital role in supporting the common good. We can take a lesson from our shared experience with the coronavirus about the real power we, as individuals and as a community, have to make a difference. The Storm Smart program offers assistance to people to take steps on their own land to make The Valley more resilient to flooding, keep swimming holes and groundwater clean and better adapt to a changing environment.
To schedule an assessment or learn more, reach out to Ira Shadis at firstname.lastname@example.org, give him a call at 802-496-9127 or visit www.friendsofthemadriver.org/storm-smart.html.
Are Black Bears the Only Kind of Bear in the Valley?
Why is the covered bridge in Waitsfield covered to begin with? Is Trillium an invasive plant or a native one? How old are the mountains that ring the Valley? Are salamanders poisonous?
For the last few weeks the libraries in the Mad River Valley have teamed up to provide family friendly trivia nights to keep us thinking while we social distance. We are joining in the fun, so bring your friendly competitive spirit and knowledge of all things Mad River Valley to:
Working Lands, Wildlife, and Water
a #madshedlove Trivia Night
Friday, June 5th at 7pm.
With warmer weather here (for a little while at least!) it's easy to see why we love this place so much. But how did the Valley become what it is today? We are joining up with the libraries to bring you trivia about the plants, animals, geology, history, and waters of the Mad River Valley. There will be a mix of questions for new arrivals and old timers alike. Join us online and share your curiosity, wisdom, and wit with us and eachother!
Photo Credit - Ann Hoogenboom for #madshedlove