news from the waterfront by Tim Matson


Maintaining or improving pond water quality
depends on a variety of factors: depth, interior pond slopes, water supply, etc. But perhaps the most important factor affecting water quality is care of your shoreland.

I was reminded of this as a new water quality law makes its way through the Vermont legislature. The law will affect Vermont only, and cover water bodies 10 acres or more. Bigger than most private ponds I work on. But the issues addressed will be of interest to pond owners everywhere, regardless of pond size.

Bottom line: messing with shoreland around ponds has the potential to degrade water quality. Whether it's Lake Champlain or Frog Puddle Pond. A number of ponds I see with water quality problems turn out to be afflicted with runoff damage from degraded shorelands. Whether there's a law governing development around your pond or not, it can't hurt to take a walk around your shoreland, evaluate the terrain, look for ways runoff may be damaging the structure and water quality, and make sure any plans you have for shoreland development won't come back to bite you.

The lakeshore protection act here in Vermont is being drafted in response to damage being done to our lakes and ponds due to development of shorelands
that causes several categories of harm: 1) to the
water; 2) aquatic and wildlife habitat; 3) shoreline stability; 4)flood resistance; 5) economic values (property values, tax base, tourism).

How does this happen? It's most obvious when you see a brand new clearcut on a steep wooded slope
above a lake shoreline. It might be for a new house site, a house expansion, getting more cleared space (with maybe a better lake view), or a big beach. Sometimes its called Lawn to Lake. 

The result can be more erosion and conseqently
more sediment running off into the lake or pond.
And erosion doesn't only occur during construction.
Eliminating trees, stripping a site down to
a simple lawn, will invite more erosion from
rain runoff than preserved well knitted woods and brushy terrain.




Runoff damage can lead to degraded aquatic habitat involving shallowed water, turbidity, and warmer water. That's problematic for fish and other aquatic critters, as well as encouraging algae and unwanted aquatic weeds

Degraded shoreland can lead to unstable banks.
Runoff erodes the shoreline banks, which fall
apart, erode, collapse into the water, etc.
This can also mean more vulnerability to flood damage.

Other negative effects of degraded shoreland
can be loss of property value, and the need for
costly repair work.

What I've done at my pond, and what I often recommend for other ponds, is to keep the shore lawn small. The rest of the encircling shore
should be natural, especially upslope wet areas
where disturbances can trigger erosion. Sometimes work is required to stabilize upslope shore areas, but that's the point... stability.

The lawn that I do keep along part of my shore
is allowed to grow a band of wildflowers a couple of feet wide at the water's edge. This acts as an erosion filter for runoff from the lawn, and slows down runoff when the rains are heavy. It creates a habitat for all sorts of critters that like living on the edge: frogs, dragonflies, crayfish, salamanders, and more. It's also puts on
an ever changing display of grasses and wildflowers that naturalize there, and vary from year to year.

Shore is nice.

Reprinted from April 5, 2014 Pondology

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