Watershed work

Volunteers remove European frogbit plants in Town Farm Bay.

Volunteers, from nurses to ornithophiles, paddled throughout the lively wetlands of Lake Champlain to remove European frogbit, a non-native invasive plant species, for the 16th consecutive summer.

In 2007, Lewis Creek Association initiated the Water Quality Stewardship Program and has since worked annually to manage the invasive plants and water quality of the rivers and streams that drain directly into Lake Champlain. The volunteer-driven frogbit project is the result of cooperation between many individuals and groups, including Charlotte, Shelburne and Hinesburg, Shelburne Bay Boat Club and a supportive Charlotte property owner.

European frogbit, a common aquarium plant, spread to the United States via the St. Lawrence River after it was introduced to arboretum ponds in Ottawa in 1932. It is now considered an aquatic invasive species because it dominates native species in the competition for sunlight, nutrients and surface area. In 2007, 50 percent of Town Farm Bay was covered by frogbit.

Annual paddling and weeding trips, with a side of bird- and turtle-watching, have reduced the coverage of frogbit to around 4 percent. In contrast, when frogbit was discovered in the wetlands of the LaPlatte Natural Area, it had a much lower percentage cover, giving the Lewis Creek Association program and volunteers the opportunity for early detection and a rapid response.

Though the invasive plant will never be eradicated in either location, maintaining this low population allows native plants and animals to thrive. This summer, volunteers spent 172 hours removing 1,057 pounds of frogbit from Town Farm Bay and 30 pounds from the LaPlatte River wetlands.

Stewards also monitor water quality in the LaPlatte River, Patrick Brook, McCabe’s Brook, Thorp Brook, Kimball Brook, and this year, Lewis Creek, by volunteers for South Chittenden River Watch. Volunteers collected water samples that are analyzed by the Vermont Agricultural and Environmental Laboratory. The sampling season has recently wrapped up, and included sampling for phosphorus, nitrogen and chloride to understand sources of nutrient loading to Lake Champlain while informing water quality improvement project plans. This year’s results will be available at lewiscreek.org next spring; to see last years’ results, visit bit.ly/LCA-WQ-2021.

If you are interested in assisting with water quality monitoring or invasive plant removal in 2023, reach out to Kate Kelly, Lewis Creek Association program manager, at lewiscreekorg@gmail.com or 802-488-5203. Portia Butrym is an intern with the association.

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