NORTHFIELD — Water Street may be a lot drier after the completion of a five-year stormwater mitigation project to reduce flooding in the area.
A section of town that would flood in heavy rains has been transformed into a water sink and soon a green space.
Pam DeAndrea, a senior GIS planner and water quality planner for Central Vermont Regional Planning Commission (CVRPC), noted that the project was initially limited in scope until the town acquired land across the street from the river on Water Street, so named because it is in the floodplain of the Dog River. In heavy rain and runoff events, water from Union Brook Road and Union Street would cascade downhill and be diverted into a stormwater system that emptied directly into the river, and would also cause flooding on Water Street.
“It was just an open lot and that open lot is now treating stormwater that would have caused more significant erosion along the banks of the Dog River, what we call stream instability (or geomorphic instability) by causing more erosion,” DeAndrea said.
Through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) buyout program, the acquisition of three houses and the 9 acres of land on which they stood allowed for the treatment of stormwater with an underground infiltration system. Now that the project is complete, the land will become green space in the town.
Work on the project began in June and was completed in October. The near-$500,000 project was a collaboration between the town of Northfield, which contributed $28,000 toward the project, and the (CVRPC), which applied for a grant from the Ecosystem Restoration Program at the Department of Environmental Conservation.
The concept for the project began in 2014 as part of the Northfield Village Stormwater Master Plan that identified stormwater treatment along the banks of the Dog River as a priority.
Objectives of the project were to reduce riverbank erosion and the amount of sediment and phosphorous entering the river and finding its way to Lake Champlain, where it causes toxic algae blooms that are unhealthy for both humans and aquatic species.
DeAndrea said the underground infiltration system was the most effective way to capture stormwater runoff before it found its way into the river, eroded riverbanks and caused additional damage downstream in Lake Champlain.
Contractors involved in the project included Watershed Consulting Associates in Burlington, Aldrich & Elliot in Essex Junction and G&N Excavation in Moretown. DeAndrea also credited the work of Town Manager Jeff Schulz on the project.
“The whole idea about these stormwater projects is to sink it where it lands instead of letting it spit into the river,” DeAndrea said.