The Lake St. Catherine Association (LSCA) is excited to announce that we have earned a grant from the Lake Champlain Basin Program (LCBP) to create a Watershed Action Plan for Lake St. Catherine.
What is a lake watershed action plan?
From the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a Watershed Action Plan is described as:
“Watershed planning helps address water quality problems in a holistic manner by fully assessing the potential contributing causes and sources of pollution, then prioritizing restoration and protection strategies to address these problems.”
What was the Lake St. Catherine Association awarded a grant to do?
Lake Champlain Basin Program has awarded the Lake St. Catherine Association in partnership with the Poultney Mettowee Natural Resources Conservation District (PMNRCD) a 3-year grant to develop a Watershed Action Plan. The $38,224 awarded by the grant will allow the LSCA to hire and partner with lake experts to perform various in-lake and watershed based measurements, testing, and studies to identify current or potential future issues and design a comprehensive, long-term plan to address them. The resulting plan will leverage current LSCA investments in water quality and pollution prevention, be driven by accepted best management practices, elevate under-assessed areas and gaps, and will identify issues, opportunities, and projects to guide locally-led water quality implementation work in the Lake St. Catherine watershed.
Isn’t the Lake St. Catherine Association already doing its part in improving water quality?
Yes, after many years of successfully managing individual lake programs which include: in-lake invasive species control (Milfoil Control Program), invasive species prevention (Greeter Program), and storm water management (Lake Wise Program), the LSCA is now poised to integrate these programs into a broader watershed plan with a focus on the prevention of pollutant loads (phosphorus, nitrogen, sediments) that enter into the Lake from sources outside the waterbody. The LSCA plans to use the success of these building blocks to expand its work in the watershed and focus on prevention for the future.
Why is this grant so important?
Lake St. Catherine is located in the South Lake drainage area of the Lake Champlain Basin, which feeds high levels of phosphorus to the South Lake Basin of Lake Champlain. A primary focus of this project is reducing phosphorus to waterways.
The Lake Champlain Basin Program spent the past year evaluating proposals that could drive down the excessive amount of phosphorus in Lake Champlain. Excessive phosphorus fuels the growth of plants and algae and creates an unhealthy ecosystem that is unsustainable.
Sources of phosphorus surrounding Lake Champlain come from roads, parking lots, lawns, and agricultural and logging operations. Other phosphorus sources include eroding stream channels which alone is responsible for 20% of excessive phosphorus load. Changes in forests also accounts for another 16%. The South Basin of Lake Champlain which also houses Lake St. Catherine, has been given a goal to reduce overall phosphorus load by 20%. Lake St. Catherine’s proposal was successful within the context of a highly competitive process throughout both New York and Vermont.
Who will be involved in the development of our Watershed Action Plan?
A Project Team led by Trustees of the Association will engage the following partners:
- Poultney Mettowee Natural Resources Conservation District to do field work on the areas adjacent to the Lake to identify sources of pollutants and recommend 20 projects to address them.
- The Natural Sciences Department at Castleton University to use its environmental chemistry lab with access to water sampling supplies and instrumentation; Castleton undergraduate students to conduct broader in-lake and in-flow tributary water sampling and analyze the impact of major storm events. Students will help literature review of best management practices for water quality to sample collection, to water analysis, to data analysis, to GIS modeling.
- A Limnologist consultant and/or chemist will advise on lake nutrient cycling, lake functions, and assist with any in-lake studies, such as water chemistry, sediment testing, and measuring phosphorus concentrations.
- A series of community Stakeholders will be actively engaged to evaluate their part in understanding and mitigating excessive phosphorus and erosion around the Lake. These include: The Lake St. Catherine Conservation Fund; the Towns of Wells and Poultney, especially the road crews as well as zoning provisions; members of the Association and homeowners to enact prevention on their properties; the Vermont DEC who has agreed to co-sponsor an annual symposium on best practices; businesses and the lake community who use the Lake and surrounding area for recreation.
What will happen at the end of the grant in 2024?
Using the data and information collected about the Lake St. Catherine Watershed, the Project Team will create the Lake St. Catherine Watershed Action Plan. This plan will identify “Opportunities For Action” and the strategies, interventions, and projects to best address them.
Subsequent grants will be requested to implement as many projects as possible and create a culture worthy of emulation that positions Lake St. Catherine for future funding that rewards water quality improvements including phosphorus load reduction. These efforts will continue for the balance of the decade and be the most important contribution all those who love being at Lake St. Catherine can do to distinguish its future beauty and health.
What can I do specifically to support this effort?
Although we have been steadily working our way towards 50% of Lake St. Catherine property owners joining the LSCA, we know we can do better, and there is room to grow. We all benefit from the work of our Trustees, our volunteers, and from the financial contributions of property owners, renters, and those who come to Lake St. Catherine for recreation. Now is the time to become a yearly member and show your long-term support of the LSCA, and in turn, Lake St. Catherine.
If you have not become a member yet this year, please visit our website: www.lakestcatherine.org. It will show that you are a serious participant in the future of the Lake, as someone who appreciates the relationship between Lake quality and property values, and that you care about our watershed. It will also will add credibility to our applications for future funding by demonstrating that our lake community is invested in maintaining and improving the Lake St. Catherine Watershed.
If you love Lake St. Catherine, and you have not become a member of the LSCA yet, this is your year to do so! Let’s all show our neighbors, our Trustees, our funders, and future generations that we are all stewards of our beloved Lake St. Catherine.