Feb 03, 2021

Willoughby Lake Area Undertakes Wetland Restoration Project

The wetland restoration project will be the largest project of its kind in the state since 2011.

vermont water

Wetland restorations are being planned in Barton, Vermont, near Willoughby Lake.

This will be the largest project of its kind in the state since 2011, according to VT Digger.

The project falls under the Vermont In-Lieu Fee Program in which developers pay fees when they impact a wetland so a comparable piece of land can be restored.

“It’s a pretty exciting site,” said Laura Lapierre, wetlands program manager for the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, reported VT Digger.

A 244-acre parcel north of Willoughby Lake Road in Barton was bought in 2019 by Ducks Unlimited, which is a national conservation nonprofit organization that rebuilds and protects wetlands for the program in Vermont. The wetlands adjoin Lord Brook, a tributary of the Willoughby River. This connects Willoughby Lake with Lake Memphremagog to the north.

According to Patrick Raney, conservation services manager for Ducks Unlimited, what stands out about the Willoughby property was its proximity to large bodies of water that attract waterfowl. Wood ducks, black ducks and mallards all use the bodies of water around the wetlands.  

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The tributaries it borders are home to invertebrates and small fish and there are extensive tracts of forested wetlands there as well, according to VT Digger.

According to Raney, the land cost more than $300,000, which came from the developer-fee program. 

When obtaining permits for a construction project, a developer buys credits if their work will impact a wetland. The funds from these credits will allow Ducks Unlimited to roll out restoration efforts and the fees are based on property values in the region, according to the state. 

“Wetlands have significant functions and values in the landscape,” Lapierre said. “They’re these concentrated areas that have a large amount of biodiversity, lots of different plants and animals.”

Most of the money for the Barton site came from fees paid several years ago by the state Agency of Transportation. Work on the ground has not begun yet due to a need for more funding. 

Field work is not likely to begin for a couple of years, reported VT Digger.

The restoration will be broken into two phases. Ducks Unlimited will try to recreate the wetlands with new shallow areas where water can collect in the way it would have naturally. 

The nonprofit plans to retain a conservation easement and turn the property over to a local land trust, added Raney.

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