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Partner Alluvial Soils Workshop

Partner Alluvial Soils Workshop

Alluvial Soils Workshop

On April 14, 2011 a unique event focused on management of alluvial soils was conducted by an interdisciplinary team from 3 separate government agencies. The goals of the meeting were: increasing awareness of serious erosion issues with alluvial soils, exploring options to lessen sediment loads and promoting protection of  floodplain soils with a variety of conservation practices. Sediment washed into Vermont's rivers and streams from agricultural fields is a water quality concern as far as turbidity and phosphorus pollution in Lake Champlain. Staci Pomeroy from the River Management Program from the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, Ben Gabos from the Vermont Agency of Agriculture and Caroline Alves from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) all combined efforts to develop the agenda and conduct the workshop. Staci Pomeroy explains river processes with the flume

The workshop started with a flume table demonstration of river processes. Next, there was a presentation on the highly variable nature of alluvial soils,  in terms of texture and drainage. With a better understanding of the dynamic riverine environment,  the next topic covered some case studies - illustrating practices that can be put in place to prevent massive soil erosion - that can so easily occur in these highly vulnerable areas. The morning wrapped up with a panel discussion led by Kip Potter of NRCS - centered on policy issues and finding better ways to flag these soils as contributors of sediment. NRCS does not rate alluvial soils as HEL, or Highly Erodible Land, since floodplains always have flat slopes and scouring from water flow from rivers is not taken into account with the HEL rating system.  Representatives from the Farm Service Agency (USDA-FSA), Friends of Northern Lake Champlain, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), NRCS, and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture all participated on the panel. The 30 attendees (from NRCS, Extension Service, Conservation Districts, University of Vermont and agricultural consultants) all had excellent input to the discussion as well.Ben Gabos (in the white hat) explains conservation practices

In the afternoon, there was a field trip to the Boissoneault Farm where Ben Gabos had worked with Jason Boissoneault to install a variety of practices to revegetate areas that had re-occurring sizable erosion problems from flood waters. Economically, the dollar return from participating in the conservation programs in this situation is much better than the loss of revenue with corn plants and fertilizer being washed away or inundated by sediment every year. Much of the field area can still be planted to corn. That afternoon the water was over the banks of the Lamoille River and running through the flood chutes so there was a chance to see how the practices were working to hold soil in place, in real time.

We are hoping to hold a similar Alluvial Soils Workshop in the spring of 2012 in southern Vermont - stay tuned. There is a real need to work cooperatively and continue these discussions with the many agencies and individuals involved river management. Local agricultural production is supported by many around the state, so methods to improve water quality and prevent soils loss from these highly productive alluvial soils is of crucial concern.

Contact: Caroline Alves, 802-865-7895 ext. 203, Caroline.Alves@vt.usda.gov