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Employing River Corridor Protection and Restoration Strategies to Attenuate Non-point Source Nutrient Pollution

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Throughout Vermont, rivers and streams have been effectively isolated from large floodplain areas through channel alteration. Of the nearly 1,400 river miles in Vermont that have been assessed to date, nearly three-quarters (74%) have become confined to deeper, straighter channels and no longer have access to historic floodplains. These manipulations of the stream corridor are suspected of causing increased flooding, altered sediment regime, channel instability, reduced habitat quality, and excessive nutrient export.

On-going research by the Agricultural Research Service's National Sedimentation Laboratory in the southeastern United States suggests that anywhere from 60–90% of the total sediment load in incised channels can be attributed to streambank erosion (Simon and Klimetz, 2009). Similar work is currently underway in the Missisquoi River watershed within the Lake Champlain basin. This project will estimate the proportion of the annual sediment-bound phosphorus load delivered to Lake Champlain attributable to in-channel erosion and streambank failures during and following high flow events.

The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources has developed a suite of programs to help restore stream equilibrium, and in turn reduce phosphorus loads delivered to Lake Champlain, including: purchasing corridor easements and channel management rights in river reaches identified as high priority sediment and nutrient attenuation assets, working with municipalities to adopt zoning that protects river corridors from future encroachments, and active floodplain restoration projects. This presentation will highlight the important role that river corridor protection and restoration strategies can play in attenuating non-point source phosphorus loads.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2011

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