Panton moving forward with culverts as state studies farm runoff
PANTON — Panton road foreman Rick Cloutier is planning next week to install new culverts at an intersection near Lake Champlain, an action he can now take after town and state officials agreed at a September meeting that the culverts themselves are not contributing to potential lake pollution, said Panton selectboard members.
That meeting, triggered by a citizen letter to state officials, has led to a study of agricultural runoff issues in the area, Panton officials said.
Seventeen Panton and Ferrisburgh residents in late August sent that letter to the secretaries of three Vermont agencies: Agriculture, Transportation and Natural Resources. It said existing and proposed culverts might worsen runoff from Vorsteveld Farm land on the east side of the intersection, Panton’s nearest farm to Lake Champlain.
The residents asked that the planned project be “temporarily stopped until such time that a proper study be conducted to determine the extent of current runoff into Lake Champlain from the farm acreage.”
The residents wrote they were concerned “this culvert project may have been planned in isolation and without awareness of the environmental impact of draining the runoff from this large farm operation directly to a narrow area of land along the lake.”
One signer of the letter, according to selectboard chairman John Viskup, said she was concerned one of the new culverts had increased the flow of runoff along her rocky land so much that it “cascades right down through her property.”
On Sept. 9, selectboard members, residents and representatives of the state agencies met at the site. According to town officials, the Panton highway department installed two replacement culverts at the intersection a year ago and needs three more to finish the project.
At the meeting, it was determined the issue is not the culverts or their placement, said selectboard member Beth Tarallo, and work can proceed.
Tarallo said the culverts “follow all VTrans standards,” and are not the cause of any potential pollution.
“The culverts in the area do not cause the problem, they just keep the water off the road,” she said.
Because of the meeting and the complaint, Tarallo said town officials had agreed to stop the project and paving of Arnold Bay Road in the area in case there was something “that we should be doing different.”
That paving project will not be done until next year at the earliest, Viskup said, because pavers had to move onto other towns.
“We lost our window of opportunity,” he said.
But Viskup appreciates the fact that residents raised the issue of runoff, largely from manure spread on farm fields, which he said polluted a pond on his property 15 years ago.
“They were concerned about agricultural pollution,” he said, adding he shares the concern. “It’s something that needs to be addressed.”
Officials and residents at the September meeting brainstormed possible solutions, and new EPA standards for Vermont are requiring dairy farmers such as the Vorstevelds to take steps to curb runoff. Town office employees have also always described the farmers as cooperative.
Possible solutions raised at the Sept. 9 meeting for property owners on either side of the intersection included a rain garden, a settlement pond and, according to minutes, “a large grassy area to catch some of the water flow.”
Viskup said town officials have not yet heard of a mitigation plan for the area, but they expect one to arrive.
“They’re looking at all of this,” he said, adding, “The rest is all up to the state.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].