Stream restoration project winds down after 15 years

April 24, 2008

By Greg Elias

Observer staff

A long-running effort to restore a Williston waterway culminates this weekend when volunteers plant vegetation to stabilize stream banks.

Sucker Brook, which meanders through the southern end of town, changed course after a rainstorm in the 1980s. The brook jumped its banks and flowed into an abandoned gravel pit.

The pit filled and its walls collapsed, starting a cycle of erosion in the surrounding area. Over the years, erosion pushed an estimated 300,000 cubic yards of sediment downstream, creating a canyon 70 feet wide and 50 feet deep.

The town of Williston has worked for more than 15 years to restore the stream. The effort included meeting with landowners, consulting with stream experts and designing restoration work.

Nearly $500,000 in grants from the state and federal governments, as well as various nonprofits, has been secured to pay for the project. Only $12,000 in town funding was used.

Over the past three years, about 850 linear feet of stream have been restored. Work has included installing a stone-lined step pool and re-grading stream banks. Volunteers have helped plant alders and willows that will prevent erosion.

"Now, when you go down there you see grass growing on the banks," said Carrie Deegan, Williston's environmental planner.

This year's plantings will consolidate previous efforts and ensure the stream maintains its current course for years to come. Speckled alder and dogwood shrubs will be planted as well as willow cuttings.

Sucker Brook is a tributary of Muddy Brook. It originates near the Williston-Hinesburg line near Lake Iroquois and crosses Vermont 2A before emptying into Muddy Brook.

Restoring Sucker Brook was considered an important conservation effort because sediment carries pollutants downstream. Even though the brook is a minor waterway, it is in the watershed that empties into Lake Champlain.

Deegan said this year's planting will mark the final large-scale restoration effort on Sucker Brook. In future years, the town will simply check to ensure that the erosion control measures remain functional.

More than a dozen people have already volunteered to help with this weekend's planting, Deegan said. But a few more volunteers would be welcome.

The effort takes place on Saturday and Sunday, from 9 a.m. to noon each day. Volunteers will meet on LaClair Lane, a driveway located along Vermont 2A about 2.5 miles south of Taft Corners. Volunteers are asked to park along the driveway, not in the grass.

For more information, contact Deegan at or 878-6704 x3.