Article from The Rutland Herald
Stretch of Batten Kill restored
PATRICK McARDLE, Herald Staff
September 13, 2008
ARLINGTON — Another half mile of the Batten Kill’s banks and wildlife habitats were restored over the last few weeks as the Batten Kill Watershed Alliance and other agencies work to restore the river’s trout population.
Workers from the Green Mountain National Forest, the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources’ Fish & Wildlife Department and Dorset private contractors Dydo & Company and Bruce Waite Logging have been working on the "Twin Rivers Extension" project since the beginning of the month using the lands of Dr. William Lesko as a staging area.
Project leader Scott Wixsom, with the Green Mountain National Forest, said the habitat improvement will primarily benefit brook and brown trout but also other river species.
As they have for the past two years, workers are restoring woody vegetation, primarily through the use of "root wads," to restore cover for the trout population. The cover, which also includes whole trees and boulders, provides a cooler place for fish and protection from enemies.
The Batten Kill has seen a decline in recent years of the younger, smaller fish which will be the next generation of desirable targets for anglers. While the Batten Kill is a popular spot for anglers looking for a challenge, it remains a "catch and release" river.
Root wads are uprooted trees with intact root systems. They are an important part of the habitat restoration because in appearance and substance they blend in with the natural environment.
Many of the root wads used on the Batten Kill this year were provided by another state agency. When the Agency of Transportation cleared land for the construction of the northern leg of the Bennington Bypass, a number of the trees were saved for the Arlington project.
Workers also built "rock tables" out of donated pieces of slate. The structures are simple — two side pieces with a third piece laid on top — but they serve to slow the water down and allow the trout to access food.
"It’s like the trout are looking up at a conveyor belt that’s bringing the food to them," said Cynthia Browning, executive director of the Batten Kill Watershed Alliance.
Chris Alexopolous explained that when trout food, like insects, is carried down the river, the current hits the tables which slows it down as it passes over the table top and back down to the river, allowing the trout to catch the food more easily.
Alexopolous said he had spoken to fishing guides who said the tables also provided a useful spot for anglers to drop their lines, knowing trout already fed in the area.
The final piece of the restoration effort will involve planting trees and bushes along the banks to create and restore riparian buffers which prevent erosion and flooding problems.
Wixsom, who designed the placement of the structures, said they had been placed close enough to the banks of the Batten Kill so they would not affect its other recreational uses like canoeing and kayaking.
The local pool known as the John Atherton pool, named for the artist who lived and fished there with his friend Norman Rockwell, was also part of this year’s restoration.
Browning said the restoration of the Batten Kill serves multiple purposes. It benefits the people who like to fish the river by bringing the trout numbers back up, which in turn can benefit hotels and restaurants in Arlington. Landowners and the town benefit because of the erosion controls and flood abatement issues.
"The river is an economic engine, a recreational force, an important part of the local ecology. There are any number of reasons why it’s important to Arlington," Browning said.
Browning and Shelly Stiles, district manager of the Bennington County Conservation District, were able to reach the landowners whose properties are along the Batten Kill and secure their cooperation. Those owners include former longtime Arlington Town Clerk Joyce "Birdie" Wyman and Vermont Commissioner of Taxation Thomas Pelham.
In 2006 and 2007, restoration efforts were conducted on a quarter mile of the Batten Kill each year at a two-year cost of about $84,000. Browning said this year, by doing a full half-mile at one time, the cost was brought down to about $50,000.
Both costs do not include factors like donated materials and volunteer time.
The alliance funneled money raised internally and contributed by the Green Mountain National Forest, the Orvis Company, the Trout and Salmon Foundation and the Southwestern Vermont Chapter of Trout Unlimited into the Twin Rivers Extension project.
Browning said she was optimistic that next year, the alliance may try to restore a full mile, which would make the four-year total 2 miles.
Contact Patrick McArdle at email@example.com.