Storm Smart Meets the Wider Winooski
We're proud to report that the Storm Smart program is finding opportunity to grow beyond the borders of the Mad River Valley in partnership with the Winooski Natural Resources Conservation District (WNCRD) and the Friends of the Winooski River (FWR) and with support of Lake Champlain Basin Program!
As we close out the last days of summer, the Storm Smart program is nearing the end of its third field season. That’s three years of working with people at over one hundred properties across the Valley to find opportunities to slow down, spread out, and sink in water where it lands. The program emerged from the hard work of Valley community members involved in the Ridge to River initiative and has continued to grow and adapt with the feedback each property assessment provides. The Storm Smart program might be run by Friends staff, but at its heart it is a partnership between Friends and the community. The lessons from one property go on to inform the opportunities found on the next. In the same way that small problems can add up, each property that takes steps to ‘spongify’ the landscape adds to the resilience of the whole Valley.
Not unlike other past projects that have found fertile "incubation" ground in the Mad River Valley, the value of the Storm Smart program has not gone unnoticed outside our community. As the Mad River flowed downstream it brought with it the stories of motivated property owners, hands on support, and a growing Storm Smart community. Statewide, people are looking for ways to build flood and climate resilience, protect and expand wildlife habitat and biodiversity, and ensure clean water for future generations. This work takes all of us and the Storm Smart program has become an important piece of that work – in no small way thanks to the people of the Mad River Valley. Since late 2019, Friends has been working behind the scenes with WNRCD and FWR, as part of a Lake Champlain Basin Program Grant, to bring the Storm Smart program to the entire Winooski watershed. The Storm Smart Partnership launched in earnest this August and has funding through the 2021 field season.
Thanks to the Mad River Valley community, but also to the grants and foundations that have helped to grow Storm Smart - especially the Robbins de-Beaumont Foundation, High Meadows Fund, Vermont Watershed Grants, and Lake Champlain Basin Program!
“We’re excited to bring this program from the Mad River Valley to the broader Winooski watershed,” said Michele Braun of Friends of the Winooski River. “This partnership builds on the work of three well-established organizations and we look forward to working with each other and our watershed neighbors to build a broad and connected Storm Smart community.”
People have come to the Storm Smart program for different reasons, to solve drainage and erosion issues, to protect and conserve our natural resources, and to learn about the journey water takes through their property. More often than not, people come to the program because they want to be good neighbors. They know that the actions they take on their own property can have an impact downhill and downstream. By taking care of our own Mad River watershed, we are also providing benefits to the broader Winooski basin, and beyond that to the Champlain watershed, whose boundaries extend north across international boundaries, and yet again beyond that, past the cities of Montreal and Quebec into the estuaries of the Saint Lawrence and the North Atlantic beyond. And those are just the benefits accrued through the water. When we support the diversity of native plant and wildlife in our watershed, we build connectivity into the landscape that supports our neighbors whether they fly, crawl, swim, or take root beyond the ridgetop borders of our Valley.
The Storm Smart program will continue to work in the Valley as part of Friends commitment to clean water, healthy land, and vibrant communities. If you want schedule an assessment of your property reach out to Friends at Stormsmart@friendsofthemadriver.org, visit www.friendsofthemadriver.org/storm-smart or call (802) 496-9127.