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River Watch Collaborative to train volunteers this weekend

MIDDLEBURY — Like the rest of us, river samplers for the Addison County River Watch Collaborative are crossing their fingers for the arrival of warm weather.
“Our water sampling season is scheduled to begin on April 8,” said River Watch Coordinator Matt Witten. “So we need the ice to melt just to have safe access to flowing streams.”
River Watch’s training for volunteer water samplers takes place this Saturday, March 28, from 9 to 11 a.m. at the Addison County Regional Planning Commission on Seminary Street in Middlebury. Witten encouraged new and experienced volunteers to attend so that people are reminded of the precise instructions necessary to carry out quality-assured sampling methods.
“We pride ourselves on producing top-notch data about water quality on our six rivers in the county,” Witten said, adding that “The annual training helps ensure samplers use uniform and accepted practices when they are out on the rivers in their teams.”
Addison County River Watch Collaborative monitors the waters of Otter Creek, Middlebury River, Lewis Creek, New Haven River, Little Otter Creek and the Lemon Fair. Currently about 30 volunteers do the once-per-month sampling from April to September. These volunteers come from many towns in the county, including Salisbury, Starksboro, Ripton, Bristol, Cornwall, Middlebury, Panton, Vergennes, Ferrisburgh, Charlotte and New Haven.
Witten noted that last year River Watch had a record turnout of volunteers and that the organization leapt forward on other fronts as well: “We have several new board members who are adding energy and creativity to the organization, and we have also revamped our website, thanks to help from the Addison County Regional Planning Commission.”
Witten said the River Watch website — http://acrpc.org/acrwc — will soon feature instructional videos done by master adventure and science videographer Bill Kinzie of Ferrisburgh.
In other recent news, River Watch and the Regional Planning Commission hosted Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner David Mears in mid-March. During a roundtable discussion with River Watch board members, Mears told the group that he is planning to create a Clean Water Fund that would help support citizen science groups such as River Watch. Commissioner Mears also said it is a personal mission of his to revive efforts to establish “Outstanding Resource Water” designations as well as “A1 classification” status to rivers that are pristine and deserve long-term protection.
“This was music to our ears,” said ACRWC Coordinator Witten. “Some interested citizens in headwater streams in our area are beginning to consider this type of designation.”
Witten explained that the state has not designated this kind of protective status to any stream in two decades, and Mears had said this was not an acceptable situation. “If the commissioner is willing to go to bat for pristine streams, we want to be ready to deliver the data showing which streams might qualify,” commented Witten.
River Watch is encouraging all those interested in water quality to attend the training on Saturday. Bristol Bakery bagels, strong cups of coffee and fresh fruit will be served starting at 8:30 a.m. For more information contact Matthew Witten, ACRWC coordinator, at 434-3236 or by email at [email protected].

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