Community | Conservation

TU launches major restoration effort on Battenkill

The Battenkill River can produce trophy brown trout, but fish population surveys have previously found poor representation of younger fish, due in part of a lack of suitable habitat.

By Jacob Fetterman

Stretching from Manchester, Vt., to the Hudson River in New York state, the Battenkill River holds a firm place in fly fishing history. 

Beyond the river’s fame and beauty, it has become evident that, without proper stewardship, the wild trout fishery supported by the Battenkill could slip away due to the degradation of quality habitat through factors such as deforestation, sedimentation, channel modification, stream fragmentation, excess nutrient inputs and large wood removal.  

By launching the Battenkill Home Rivers Initiative, Trout Unlimited is solidifying its full commitment to restoring and sustaining the Battenkill watershed for current and future generations. 

The Battenkill Home Rivers Initiative will employ an ecosystem-based approach to prioritize reconnection, restoration and protection throughout the watershed.  

Stream and river restoration can have many different faces, including reconnecting the stream to its floodplain, stabilizing eroding banks, re-vegetating riparian buffers, and establishing appropriate channel form/dimensions so the system can properly transport water and sediment. 

Volunteers have spearheaded previous habitat improvement projects on the Battenkill, triggering positive responses from the river’s trout.

Smaller previous projects on the Battenkill have shown the potential of restoration efforts, with surveys showing that trout populations positively responded to habitat enhancements.  

Connectivity within the system has multiple important benefits. Removing or improving barriers allows for upstream and downstream movements by aquatic organisms, including trout, as they seek thermal refuge, food resources, habitat and spawning sites.  

These actions, coupled with advocacy and partnerships with federal, state and local agencies, the local community, landowners, and recreational users will contribute to the sustained protection of the watershed and its wild trout fishery. 

Preamble to the HRI 

Last year, Trout Unlimited staff and volunteers worked together on a watershed assessment on the New York side of the watershed. This assessment included broad-scale and reach-level studies to to identify issues within the watershed that could help us better understand how to focus and begin our restoration efforts.  

Identifying and documenting reference sites was another important aspect of this initial assessment, as they will be used to guide restoration efforts. 

For more information on the initial Battenkill Watershed Assessment, please visit our StoryMap summarizing the results.  

HRI Pilot Season 

With its official launch, the Battenkill HRI is off and running in 2020.  

We are in the process of planning spring plantings, which will engage volunteers throughout the community in projects that will increase the resiliency of the system to impacts such as erosion, flooding, and climate change.  

Prior to launching the Battenkill Home Rivers Initiative, Trout Unlimited completed a watershed assessment, which identified many areas that could benefit from habitat enhancement.

Stream surveys and designs will be developed for priority sites on Camden Creek and the mainstem Battenkill. Camden Creek, a tributary to the Battenkill,  is considered a high priority for our initial restoration efforts.

Grant applications will be submitted to support restoration work moving forward, to include culvert design and replacement, in-stream restoration, monitoring, and education/outreach. 

Thank You 

The launching of the Battenkill Home Rivers Initiative would not have been possible without the generous contributions and support from local TU chapters (Adirondack, Clearwater, Southwestern VT, and Lake Champlain), generous supporters of Trout Unlimited’s Coldwater Conservation Fund, the New York State Council of TU, the US Forest Service, and individual sponsors. We would also like to thank our partners in the Battenkill watershed for their work, support and future collaboration. 

Jacob Fetterman is Trout Unlimited’s New York Project Coordinator. For more information about the Battenkill HRI, including how to become involved as a volunteer, contact him at Jacob.Fetterman@tu.org or BattenkillHRI@tu.org