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Water: Nonpoint Source Success Stories

Connecticut (Section 319I - 1994)

Nonpoint source management in Connecticut has evolved into a well-balanced, comprehensive program involving numerous government and nongovernment agencies and organizations. The Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (CT DEP) is the lead agency for nonpoint source management, responsible for administering the annual section 319 grants. The CT DEP Nonpoint Source Program has developed an effective network of federal, state, and local agencies including the USDA Soil Conservation Service (SCS), state agriculture and transportation agencies, and soil and water conservation districts (SWCDs).

Erosion Problems Checked Through Stabilization Partnership

In September 1989, the Town of East Windsor asked SCS and Hartford County SWCD to investigate several erosion problems near Rockville Road that were depositing large quantities of sediment on the road and in a small - watercourse leading to nearby Ketch Brook. Ketch Brook is a tributary to the Scantic River--identified in the state's NPS Assessment and Management Plan as a high priority for NPS management--and, in turn, a tributary to the Connecticut River. The SCS and Hartford County SWCD determined that part of the problem was erosion of a nursery stock field sloping toward Rockville Road. The field had lost much of its topsoil, which had been washed downhill onto the road and through a culvert into a watercourse leading toward Ketch Brook. The 4 to 6 inches of sediment on a stretch of Rockville Road presented a driving safety hazard, and caused excessive scouring and destabilization of the - watercourse banks.

Another watercourse had been clogged by sediment from nearby fields and roads, causing the stream to leave its channel, flow across a field, and deposit sediment in wetlands adjacent to Ketch Brook. The farm operator had attempted to fill the newly formed gully, but the fill material had also washed out, depositing even more sediment downstream in the wetlands.

Using the Universal Soil Loss Equation, SCS estimated the annual soil loss from the two fields, totaling 40 acres, at more than 1,000 tons, with erosion expected to continue. The sediment delta in the wetland was approximately 30 feet wide by 200 feet long, and 18 inches deep in some areas. These sediments were harming both water quality and riparian habitat. Sediment loads to the watercourses leading to Ketch Brook were contributing to eutrophication, organic enrichment/dissolved oxygen depletion, and siltation downstream in the brook and, particularly, in impoundments on the brook such as Windsorville Pond. While the natural wetland habitat exhibits diverse vegetation, including cinnamon fern and various mosses, the sediment delta supported only skunk cabbage and jewel weed. In addition, the red maple tree canopy above the sediment delta showed extreme stress, compared to nearby healthy trees. To help correct the erosion and sediment problem, the Hartford County SWCD received a FY 1990 section 319 grant of $75,000 from CT DEP for the Ketch Brook Watershed Land Treatment Demonstration Project. The 319 funds were matched by a contribution of $192,100 from a coalition including CT DEP, the Town of East Windsor, the farm operator, SCS, and the USDA Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service (ASCS).

The primary goal of the project was to reduce loading of sediment, agricultural nutrients, and pesticides to the watercourses and wetlands leading to Ketch Brook. A secondary goal was to demonstrate the effectiveness of agricultural best management practices to encourage widespread use throughout the Ketch Brook and Scantic River watersheds.

The work plan included developing a watershed management plan with a land use inventory and assessment of other NPS problems in the Ketch Brook watershed. The primary focus, however, was to demonstrate structural and nonstructural erosion and sediment control BMPs at the Rockville Road site. Structural practices were aimed at halting and stabilizing the accelerated erosion in the agricultural fields and streambank channels. The main practice was to construct stone-lined (riprap) waterways to reduce flow velocities and protect the highly erosive streambanks. Nonstructural practices emphasized cultural activities in the watershed, including cover cropping, permanent seeding, and cross-slope row cultivation. In addition to the Hartford County SWCD, the project coordinator, the public/private partnership included technical assistance from SCS; in-kind construction, financial assistance, and permits from the Town of East Windsor; cost-share assistance to the farm operator from ASCS; and in-kind construction and cost-share for land treatment from the farm operator. In addition, CT DEP provided technical assistance and helped secure financial assistance through the Flood and Erosion Control Bond Commission. Several local contractors provided advice on construction alternatives. This assistance was vital to developing a feasible plan and design. Construction of structural practices began in September 1991 and was completed the following spring. Implementation of nonstructural practices began in summer 1991 and are being maintained under a long-term agreement with the farm operator. The Hartford County SWCD has since received additional 319 funding for the Scantic River Watershed NPS Management Project, including $65,000 in FY 1993 funds to correct other erosion problems in the Ketch Brook subwatershed.

All the project sponsors and local residents consider the project a success. The most obvious result is the reduced sediment loading to Ketch Brook and its wetlands. Soil erosion has been reduced from over 2,000 tons of sediment per year to less than 120 tons per year. The damage to the red maple swamp has been reversed, with visible improvements to the wetland habitat. The water quality improvement prompted one local angler to complain about decreased fishing because of the water's improved clarity. Before the project, sediment loading caused turbidity in the water column, forcing fish to feed nearer the surface and making them easier to catch.

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