DEEP Grant Award Supports Agricultural Outreach and Watershed Plan Implementation
PRWC has received a Clean Water Act Section 319 program grant from CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) to support implementation of the Pomperaug Watershed Based Plan (WBP) that was adopted in 2018. This Plan serves as a road map for mitigating stormwater runoff that transports excess bacteria and other pollutants from the landscape into nearby water bodies. The need for the WBP was prompted after a few stream reaches in the watershed appeared on DEEP’s impaired waters list with high bacteria levels being the reason. Because these listings were based on limited data sets, conducting additional field investigations was one of priority actions recommended in the WBP. It was noted that supplementary streamwalk survey assessments coupled with more widespread water quality sampling would help refine the scope of the impairments and identify potential sources of bacteria, which in turn would lead to targeted implementation of site-specific mitigation projects and action plans that will be effective at improving water quality.
Specifically, the recent grant award will support for additional water quality monitoring and assessment activities to provide a stronger basis for prioritizing and developing implementation plans for the conceptual best management practices (BMPs) detailed in the WBP. These activities include fixed-station bacteria monitoring (coupled with specific conductance and nitrate as tracers to help identify the type of source -- i.e. septic, animal waste, agriculture) at 15 sites watershed wide as well as streamwalk assessments focused along the full length of Weekeepeemee River. These additional assessments will help to establish an improved baseline of water quality conditions as the known impairments are based on very limited data sets from 2006 and 2010. The assessments will also further characterize pollutant sources and problem areas, and facilitate the development of more detailed action plans and site-specific restoration projects. The grant will also support focused outreach to agricultural operations within the watershed, which is a critical short-term task necessary to achieving the long-term pollutant reduction goals. Agricultural operations, both large scale and hobby farm size, are common throughout the watershed and, according to the pollutant loading model results, represent key drivers of bacteria loads.
Through this outreach, PRWC hopes to better understand the multitude of challenges faced by the agricultural community, including size/scale of operation, financial resources and human resources before recommending specific strategies to help improve stream health.