SANDGATE>>A Stormwater Master Plan is in the process of being created for Sandgate and Sunderland by the Bennington County Regional Commission (BCRC) after a $48,000 grant was approved by the Vermont Ecosystem Restoration Program and administered by the Department of Environmental Conservation.
All towns in the state have until 2018 to enact a municipal general permit for roads and infrastructures, according to the 2015 clean water Act No. 64. The initiative came about due to the amount of phosphorus and pollutants in Lake Champlain. The BCRC is seeking out professional river engineering firm(s) to then take inventory of the two town's roads and identify high priority projects, according to Jim Henderson, BCRC Environmental Program Manager.
"It's a competitive grant that has to have a connection with clean water, or the restoration of water environments and we've been pretty successful in the past in getting some grants through this program," Henderson said.
The Battenkill Watershed Alliance, Bennington County Conservation District, Town Highway Departments and select boards will also be involved in the restoration process to form two steering committees.
The Stormwater Master Plan "will identify, map, evaluate and prioritize stormwater problem sites in the towns" and lay the framework for Town Highway Departments to attend to those problems.
"Now we're concerned about what connects the drainage system to surface waters," Henderson said. "Part of this inventory will look at the ditch network, that connects culverts to culverts and then eventually surface water."
The grant was applied for in April, Henderson said, and originally involved work on the Lydbrook dam in Manchester, but the project was deemed too expensive.
Firm proposals are due at the end of August and Henderson hopes to approve one or two by September. Once chosen, the firm will analyze roads in each town, come up with a list of 10 high priority areas and five project sites to announce to the steering committees. They have one year to do inventory.
The grant will fund the field work, the high priority projects and the final plan.
Henderson said there are many gravel roads in Vermont that are subject to natural erosion, which he noted as some of the problem sites.
"You will almost always have erosion issues on that type of a road," he said, "Especially considering the past management and maintenance of the roads, may not be what the new protocols are asking. It's not that the town isn't maintaining roads well .A lot of this, the clean water act, is being drive by Lake Champlain."
One protocol involves installing a drainage ditch on any road that has a grade, or slope, more than 5 percent.
Gravel roads won't be paved, but have a "higher standard of maintenance, than they had in the past," Henderson said.
"[The state] been developing, 'how are we going to address the water degradation that's occurring from our road networks and that's how and why they've come up with this new general road permit. They've made a lot more money available for towns to get ready for this and so, it's just really starting to get going, the implementation of Act 64."
Even though the grant is intended for Sandgate and Sunderland, Henderson noted that state funds are being made available to any town who wishes to have a professional firm assist in the rehabilitation of roadways and infrastructures.
"A significant benefit of this project is that the towns will be given a list of high priority sites that they can work on, but they can then use that information to apply for other grants," he said.
The additional funds can be sought through the Better Roads Grant Program under the Vermont Agency of Transportation. Every year towns can apply for funding for specific road projects that involve replacement of culverts, bridges, regrading and rebuilding roads with ditches, for example. Each town still has to develop their own general road permit under Act 64.
Work and cost proposals to complete a Stormwater Master Plan can be submitted to Henderson at firstname.lastname@example.org before Aug. 29.
—Makayla-Courtney McGeeney can be reached at (802)-490-6471.