By Stephanie Choate
Lake Iroquois is the site of a pilot project the state hopes can help public and private landowners combat erosion and improve water quality with minimal cost and disruption.
On Monday, Vermont Fish and Wildlife, Vermont Department of Conservation and Lake Iroquois Association staff and volunteers will head to the public boat access point at the lake for the one-day project staff hopes will mitigate erosion.
“We’re working together to come up with a method that hopefully will be workable at other sites. Not just Fish and Wildlife access areas, but camps,” said Mike Wichrowski, land facilities administrator for the Fish and Wildlife Department. “We hope this can be another tool for the state and lakefront property owners to use for improving water quality and fish and wildlife habitat and improving and protecting our waterfront.”
Similar to some lakefront homes, the access point is right on the edge of the water, and is a stretch of primarily grass and sod. The department stopped mowing the area five years ago, but Wichrowski said stabilizing shrubs haven’t moved in quickly enough.
“I’ve been here about eight years and I’ve seen the shoreline to the south of the ramp erode at least 10 to 12 feet, if not more,” he said. “We’re losing more than a foot of shoreline every year it seems like, mostly due to a lack of vegetation around the shoreline.”
On Monday, workers will grade and remove four or five feet of sod, then put “coir fiber” logs along the waterline. The logs are made of coconut fiber tightly wound into 12-inch-diameter logs. Natural round stones will go in the water next to the logs, preventing waves and ice from eroding the soil.
A biodegradable erosion mat will be put down over the exposed soil, and vegetation will be planted in holes cut into the mat.
The method avoids using large rocks and riprap, which is less appealing to look at and less effective, Wichrowski said.
“It’s a much more natural look and ideally in a few years you don’t see anything except for a vegetated shore line. That’s really the goal of the project,” Wichrowski said. “We’ve not done this sort of work in the past… It’s relatively inexpensive and aesthetically pleasing.”
Wichrowski estimated that the project materials and equipment cost approximately $1,500—plus the sweat equity of a crew of staff and volunteers.
Dan Sharpe, president of the conservation group Lake Iroquois Association, said he hopes the project can help change the attitude of a perfect camp having a golf-course-like lawn sloping to the waters edge.
“One of the big issues that we’re learning…for people who have camps on the lake is that building buffers of vegetation and native plants around the shore is a good thing for water quality.”
He hopes the project can serve as an example.
“For us, it’s a demonstration to camp owners and other property owners on the lake to learn how to build these buffers,” Sharpe said. “The hope is maybe over time we learn to be better stewards of the lake.”