Franklin Farm Tackles Innovative Water Quality Project

 

Bouchard Family Dairy Implements First Two-Stage Ditch Design in Vermont

A strectch of land in Franklin has been farmed by the Bouchard family for over a century. When Greg Bouchard came back to the dairy farm 4 years ago, he brought new and exciting agronomic practices with him.

“With the assistance from a lot of the Agencies to get practices such as animal trails, water tubs, fencing…I’ve been able to make this all work,” said Greg Bouchard, Bouchard Family Dairy, LLC.

Before returning to the farm, Greg worked as an engineer at the Vermont Agency of Agriculture helping other farms make water quality improvements. One project being implemented on land in the Midwest caught his eye.

“We saw the two-stage ditch design and I said I know of a good place for that, but how do we get that there… and here we are 10 years later,” said Greg 

The concept: By digging out the ditch banks 2-3 feet above the bottom and 12-15 feet wide on each side of the stream, you create more space for water to go during a flood event. The design mimics a natural flood plain.

“When we have a big flood, it will have the opportunity to hold the water within the created flood plain channel versus out on the fields,” Staci Pomeroy, Vermont River Management Program scientist. 

The project can save farmers time and money, but it is also helps the environment.

“These types of projects also provide a lot of great water quality benefits as well as habitat benefits. It provides an opportunity for more sediments and nutrients to be captured in the watershed on this flood plain over time,” said Pomeroy.

Stopping nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen from entering waterways that lead directly to Lake Champlain.

But this practice has never been done on Vermont land.

“As soon as we got here and walked out that day I was like this is perfect because it has really low gradient from one end to the other, he had bank erosion he had to maintain the channel frequently, and does it get out of its bank at times, all those factors kind of checked all the boxes for a site like this,” said Ben Gabos, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets.

After several years, funding from the Agency of Natural Resources helped get the project off the ground.

“The first step was to go through an engineering and design phase. So, what you see now is the construction going on. Now we’re working with Fish & wildlife to monitor the results of our project," said Dr. Kent Henderson, Friends of Northern Lake Champlain.

It's important analysis that could shape state programs in the future.

“So, we get an idea of really how many pollutants, how much phosphorus are we keeping out of Lake Champlain by doing this sort of project on farms,” said Dr. Henderson.

With farmers leading the way.

“Our program is really interested to see these types of projects explored more because they are the areas where we have the most opportunity with a variety of land owners," said Pomeroy

Staying persistent and willing to take risks.

“The water quality, I believe will improve quite a bit, the vegetation and benches down here will help catch a lot of the sediment. We’re always out here to do better,” said Greg.

Working for quality in water… and farming.

TO LEARN MORE ABOUT VERMONT WATER QUALITY PROGRAMS VISIT:

agriculture.vermont.gov/water-quality

EMAIL: AGR.WaterQuality@vermont.gov

CALL: (802) 828-2431

To learn more about Two-Stage Ditch Designs visit:

https://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/northamerica/unitedstates/indiana/howwework/two-stage-ditches.xml