Watershed Assistance Small Grants Program (WASGP)
Round 6 Projects
Organization: Ash Creek Conservation Association (ACCA)
Project I.D.: 2012-A
Project Title: Conceptual Habitat Plan for Ash Creek
Amount Awarded: $5,000
Contact: Gail Robinson
This project focused on the Ash Creek tidal estuary, one of the few remaining relatively undeveloped tidal estuaries in the State of Connecticut. This natural resource is uniquely situated in a dense, urban area, which is rare for a small tidal estuary as most of them have been filled in or destroyed by development. Bridgeport has very few natural open space areas and this is the most vibrant of them all based on its tremendous biodiversity. The reason Ash Creek is so abundant with life is that this tidal estuary has been self-restoring itself over the past 60 years thanks to the efforts of grassroots citizen organizations.
The WASGP grant, along with additional funding from the Fairfield County Community Foundation, funded a scientific study of Ash Creek (especially the confluence of waters of the Rooster River and Ash Creek) which provided an important first phase of an Ecological Master Plan.
Consultants, Steven Danzer, Ph.D. and Bryan Quinn, Landscape Architect, presented their findings and recommendations at an event held on Dec. 5, 2012. Rivers Alliance along with town officials, DEEP, representatives from area environmental organizations, and members of the public were in attendance. They provided an assessment of the current status and prioritization of ecological issues.
The scientific data from this study will be used by the City of Bridgeport who is working with the Southwestern Conservation District, Save the Sound, and Fuss & O’Neill, to start work on a Watershed Plan for the Rooster River of which Ash Creek is the tidal outlet to Long Island Sound. The Rooster River extends from the mouth of Ash Creek at the border of Fairfield and Bridgeport to the Bridgeport/Trumbull border. This water body has 303(d) impaired status. It’s an important watershed in the midst of an urban environment. Also, as a result of this study and findings, Ash Creek Conservation Association has been appointed to the Rooster River Watershed Steering Committee and will be actively involved in the watershed management plan for the area.
Organization: CT Audubon Society Center at Pomfret
Project I.D.: 2012-B
Project Title:. Thompson Citizen Science Water Quality Project
Amount Awarded: $3,500
Contact: Paula Coughlin
Thompson Citizen Science Water Quality Project trains volunteers to collect local data for two water quality monitoring projects (Stream Walk & Rapid Bioassessment for Volunteers). WASGP has provided support for this CT Audubon program over the last five grant rounds. The program has been valuable in addressing water quality issues in Northeastern Connecticut. Sites on the French River and the Quinebaug River in the town of Thompson are listed on the CT DEEP’s List of Impaired Waters.
The Thompson project contributed 162 volunteer hours, and an additional 45 volunteer hours were contributed to the 2012 RBV data collection on six Northeastern Connecticut sites in the Thames River Watershed. A core group of water quality volunteer monitors were trained and baseline Stream Walk and RBV data was collected on the Quinebaug River, French River and 3 of its tributaries. Audubon Society Center at Pomfret is working closely with the Eastern Connecticut Conservation District. The group also partnered with the Thompson Ecumenical Empowerment Group (TEEG) which engaged at risk teens in the Citizen Science Program with hands-on field work experience and learning about stream characteristics and macroinvertebrates as indicators of stream water quality.
Organization: Farmington River Watershed Association (FRWA)
Project I.D.: 2012-C
Project Title: Community Engagement to Reduce Stormwater Runoff in Winchester
Amount Awarded: $6,080
Contact: Eileen Fielding
This project focused on an effort to reduce stormwater runoff in the Still River and the lower Mad River. Both these rivers are impaired due to the discharge coming from storm drains serving extensive impervious surfaces in Winsted’s downtown area. This has had a detrimental effect on water quality downstream in the Farmington’s Wild & Scenic West Branch.
The WASGP grant, along with assistance from numerous partners, funded staff resources to coordinate the installation of 2 stormwater BMPs (one at the wastewater treatment plant and another at the drinking water treatment plant); the facilitation of 2 stormwater education workshops (one for private land owners and one for municipal officials); and the engineering design for a large stormwater BMP on the Northwestern Connecticut Community College (NCCC) campus. After a year in the ground the BMPs are stable and functioning well. Project partners included the Northwest Conservation District, Trinkaus Engineering, Northwestern CT Community College, and the Farmington River Coordinating Committee.
Organization: Northwestern CT Community College (NCCC)
Project I.D.: 2012-D
Project Title: Protecting the Still River with a Riverside Garden
Amount Awarded: $5,000
Contact: Tara Jo Holmberg
WASGP provided funding for the establishment of two new native garden spaces along the Still River in Winsted, CT. The purpose of this project was to reduce stormwater runoff, mitigate erosion, and establish new habitat for local riparian species. This project is part of a larger Farmington River Watershed Association program to investigate and map stormwater issues (land use and pollutant loads) throughout the Still River Watershed. The Still River is a major tributary to the Farmington River. Reducing pollution in the Still River will contribute to improvements in water quality in the Farmington River.
NCCC students were involved in every aspect of the project (from planning to planting to maintenance). Students enrolled in the General Botany course, FRWA staff, and NCCC/community volunteers amended and planted native species in two separate spaces on the grounds of NCCC campus, which abuts the Still River, in the spring of 2013. One of the spaces became a rain garden on the North end of the campus to help minimize runoff from sidewalks and buildings from draining through a catchment into the Still River. The second installation was a buffer garden on the South end of campus to assist in mitigating significant runoff and sheet erosion from a steep bank directly into the Still River. The installation was completed in May of 2013 and the gardens became fully established during the first half of the summer of 2013.
NCCC General Ecology class and other NCCC volunteers will monitor and maintain the sites as needed. Many pollinators have been seen performing their tasks, and after a fairly wet, early summer, runoff has already been seen to have been reduced in the rain garden site. A follow-up meeting with Sean Hayden, Soil Scientist from the Northwest Conservation District, and the maintenance/grounds staff, the Beautification / Sustainability Committee, students and volunteers took place in the fall 2013. The purpose of the meeting was to review needs of these garden spaces and address any questions or issues that might need attention.
Organization: Ledyard Garden Club
Project I.D.: 2012-E
Project Title: Poquetanuck Cove Riparian Buffer Restoration
Amount Awarded: $3,100
Contact: Peg Welles
This project involved the restoration of a boat launch area in Poquetanuck Cove, an important brakish tidal tributary of the Thames River, with the town of Ledyard on the south side, and town of Preston on the north. The area was very overgrown with many invasives. The WASGP grant funded the removal of invasive plants; restoration of native plant species; and public outreach.
Ledyard Garden Club (LGC), along with their partners, removed invasive plants from the area and identified existing native plants on site. The group then worked with Earthtones, LLC to create a landscaping plan for the area and a plant list of native species that would thrive. Informational labels were added to plantings and an educational trail was created for the public. The public also now has access to the Avalonia Land Conservancy’s kiosk which has information about the Cove. Avalonia Land Conservancy and the Eastern Connecticut Conservation District have been active in a phragmites eradication program and recently hosted kayak trips from the boat launch on Connecticut Trails weekend. The group did educational outreach to increase understanding of the project and the need for coastal buffers. Two brochures were created. One gave a description of the boat launch and its importance and was distributed to libraries, Parks & Recreation Offices; and others. The other brochure gave information about coastal landscaping with native plants and will be placed on site. The group was successful in biologically and aesthetically improving the Poquetanuck Cove boat launch, enhancing educational, wildlife, and recreational value.
Organization: Pootatuck Watershed Association (PWA)
Project I.D.: 2012-G
Project Title: Watershed Data Management: Threats, Identification, & Education
Amount Awarded: $6,000
Contact: Joe Hovious
Funding was provided to develop a comprehensive data management system that would allow the group and others to identify short and long term trends and watershed threats; develop action items to address threats and data spikes; allow for new information to be added and analyzed easily by staff; create public education materials based on issues and trends gleaned from the data; and create a model that can be used by other municipalities and watershed groups.
The Pootatuck Watershed Association (PWA) and their partners had collected an impressive amount of data over the last 7 years (2006-2013). The first priority was to develop the data management system around the chemistry data collected for the Deep Brook, Pootatuck, Pond Brook, and Halfway River watersheds. Working with the PWA partner organizations, PWA principals provided available chemistry data and sampling location information (including GIS mapping and original laboratory data) to their contractor, Advanced Environmental Interface (AEI). AEI then developed a data management system based on Excel spreadsheets and plotting to allow data organization and presentation of information in a readily available format. This new format allows the group to easily enter new data. AEI created a “live” data program into which historic and current water quality data can be examined and added to over time in order to determine trends and analyze long- and short-term water quality for specific towns, aquifers, and regions. In addition, the spreadsheets provide a graphical presentation of results as well as an analysis of minimum, maximum and mean results. The graphical presentation allows comparison over time and along the length of the watershed. PWA will be using this new system to identify specific problem sources and areas for possible attention and remediation.
The Pootatuck Watershed Association (PWA) partners include the Town of Newtown, the Candlewood Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited (CVTU), Newtown Forest Association (NFA), the Potatuck Club, CT DEEP, and others.
Organization: Park Watershed
Project I.D.: 2012-H
Project Title: Park Watershed Citizen Stewardship Organization
Amount Awarded: $5,000
Contact: Mary Richel Pelletier
WASGP grant funding was provided to the group to research, complete and file the required paperwork to become an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit. The group worked with the Connecticut Urban Legal Initiative (CULI) and Certified Public Accountant Kevin F. O’Rourke. They also, through US EPA Urban Waters Support, received advice and support from Groundwork Trust and River Network.
The need for an independent Park River Watershed group was based on recommendations from the 9 Element North Branch Park River Watershed Management Plan, a two year study completed in July 2010. With support from WASGP and Rivers Alliance guidance, the group was able to work with legal and financial consultants who helped Park Watershed, Inc., develop and file an application. The group has received the 501(c)(3) letter from the IRS approving their tax exempt status.
The Park River Watershed stretches from the Metacomet Ridge to the Connecticut River. Waterways in West Hartford, Hartford and Bloomfield as well as waterways in parts of Newington, New Britain, Farmington and Wethersfield. Upstream tributaries flow into Hartford via the North and South Branches of the Park (or “Hog”) River. These two waterways flow through the meadows and wooded flood plains of six urban neighborhoods before disappearing underground. The entire watershed pours into the Connecticut River through tunnels buried beneath Bushnell Park. Over 270,000 individuals live across the seventy-seven square mile Park River Watershed.
Going forward, Park Watershed will be reaching out to the communities in the Park River Watershed; and collaborating with other groups to address water quality issues. For example, the group is working with the North Central Conservation District on creating bioretension basins to capture stormwater runoff from several parking lots along the North Branch.
Organization: Solar Youth, Inc.
Project I.D.: 2012-I
Project Title: Pond Lily Restoration Project.
Amount Awarded: $6,000
Contact: Jack Phillips
Pond Lily Nature Preserve is a 14-acre tract of water and woodland in western New Haven, abutting the West River which flows into New Haven Harbor and Long Island Sound.
WASGP grant supported clean-up of Pond Lily and environmental educational programs (“Cycle of Stewardship”) in the Western Hills neighborhood, a low income community, where the preserve is located.
The environmental education programs involved youth ages 4 to 18 plus. The “Cycle of Stewardship” model provided consistent opportunities for the stewards to learn about and experience the outdoors. Solar youth provided 50+ hours of professional development training to 10 Youth Educator interns who presented curriculum on a range of environmental education topics at Pond Lily. A total of 83 youths enrolled in the program in 2013. Fourteen sessions were dedicated to exploring environmental topics associated with Pond Lily (i.e. wastewater, wildlife, trail maintenance, fish migration, invasive species, and community outreach).
Solar Youth partnered with the New Haven Land Trust and Connecticut Fund for the Environment / Save the Sound. The groups coordinated a community clean-up day (24 volunteers participated), an eel release day, and a storm drain stenciling project. “Cycle of Stewardship” stewards led 4 additional clean-up days (one organized in partnership with Whole Foods). Over 100 people participated in the five Pond Lily service days.
Organization: Eastern Connecticut Conservation District (ECCD)
Project I.D.: 2012-J
Project Title: Lower Natchaug River Watershed Based Plan Support
Amount Awarded: $5,000
Contact: Judy Rondeau
WASGP provided supplemental funding for ECCD to conduct streamwalk surveys of the lower Natchaug River including three perennial tributaries; and public outreach to increase awareness about water quality issues associated with nonpoint source pollution. The Natchaug River, located in Mansfield and Windham, is listed as impaired for recreation due to periodic high levels of fecal coliform bacteria.
ECCD recruited and trained 7 volunteers to conduct stream corridor assessments on approximately 11 stream miles, utilizing the streamwalk protocol developed by USDA-NRCS. The process documented existing stream corridor conditions including stormwater outfalls, impacted riparian buffers, eroded stream banks, algae, fish passage barriers, and excessive plant growth. ECCD also participated in several outdoor events (including the Willimantic River Festival and Celebrate Agriculture event) to raise public awareness. They also met with local land use officials to discuss the project and share preliminary trackdown survey results. Based on the data collected, ECCD will prepare a draft abbreviated Watershed-Based Plan for the lower Natchaug River.
Organization: Northwest Conservation District
Project I.D.: 2012-K
Project Title: Clean Water Starts at Home
Amount Awarded: $5,000
Contact: Sean Hayden
WASGP funding was provided to design and install 3 rain gardens in highly visible public locations in the towns of Thomaston and Watertown during the summer 2014. Rain gardens are a type of Low Impact Development (LID) structure which demonstrates how efficiently you can clean up polluted stormwater runoff with a simple landscape feature. NCD worked with the two towns to identify appropriate locations where there was both high foot traffic and a need for stormwater remediation. The rain gardens are part of a larger NCD outreach initiative called “Clean Water Starts At Home.”
Interpretive signs were installed at both the Thomaston and Watertown rain garden locations. In addition to providing information about rain gardens and their function, QR codes were added to the signs which people can scan with their cell phones to link to the Low Impact Development Center (www.lowimpactdevelopment.org). The center contains a wealth of information on LID. By increasing public understanding about water quality and stormwater runoff, and also by providing information about alternatives and options, individuals can see how easy (and attractive) it is to apply some of these LID techniques to their own backyards.
The Northwest Conservation District partnered with the towns of Watertown and Thomaston, the Connecticut Community Foundation, the Watertown Foundation, Siemens, and Connsoil. These structures will now serve as functioning LID structures that create a teachable moment for all who walk by them for years to come.
Organization: Pomperaug River Watershed Coalition (PRWC)
Project I.D.: 2012-L
Project Title: Thermal Monitoring and Water Sampling Equipment
Amount Awarded: $2,130
Contact: Carol Haskins
Pomperaug River Watershed Council used WASGP funds to purchase 6 HOBO Water Temp v2 data loggers for use in its thermal monitoring program, and water sampling equipment (6 kick nets and 6 sorting trays) for use in its annual Macroinvertebrate Survey project.
The equipment PRWC purchased is allowing the organization to further expand its capacity and to develop more opportunities for volunteer engagement and hands-on educational activities that will lead to positive changes for the health of the aquifer, drinking water, and the Pomperaug River. Simple expansion of the thermal monitoring program has already provided two students with well-rounded internship experiences in river stewardship. PRWC’s thermal monitoring program helps both the organization and the CT DEEP gain further understanding about the impacts of stormwater runoff, impervious surfaces, climate change, and physical changes in and along the stream channel. The macroinvertebrate survey is expected to engage approximately 25-30 volunteers in their annual river sampling project. The equipment will also be used in “PRWC’s Educational Programs for Schools” this coming school year allowing the group to broaden the scope of public programs along the river. It will also benefit nearby river groups as PRWC is willing to loan out their equipment.
Organization: Southwest Conservation District / Wepawaug River Watershed Alliance
Project I.D.: 2012-M
Project Title: Wepawaug River Watershed Alliance - Water Sampling Equipment
Amount Awarded: $3,825
Contact: Steven Johnson (Town of New Milford) or Roman Mrozinski (SWCD)
The Wepawaug River Watershed Alliance (WRWA) used WASGP funds to purchase equipment (YSI Water Quality Meter – Dissolved Oxygen (DO), Ph, temperature, and buffer calibration) to be used in their public education and monitoring programs (watershed walks).
The group has identified over eight highly visible river locations in Milford. Four of these locations were chosen for public watershed walks. The sites were visited by WRWA to identify specific opportunities to educate the public about water quality issues impacting the Wepawaug River Watershed. Public walks were conducted at Eisenhower Park, North Street Pond, City Hall Pond, and Milford Gorge and Harbor. The program had a total of 95 participants. It attracted a new audience to the river and increased awareness of water quality issues among community leaders and public officials. The group sees this as a step forward in developing a watershed management plan for the area.
Rivers Alliance of Connecticut