Big Oak Lane neighborhood in Charlotte is staying ahead of the storm

Water will collect in this stone-lined swale before entering the upgraded culvert.

The Big Oak Lane (BOL) neighborhood is located in Charlotte off of East Thompson’s Point Road within the Thorp Brook watershed.

It is a residential development with six homes and an active agricultural enterprise that drain 16.9 acres into a headwater tributary of Thorp Brook and Lake Champlain about a mile downstream. The neighborhood has been working with Lewis Creek Association (LCA) for the last three years to improve stormwater management practices and the health of Thorp Brook.

Thorp Brook enters Lake Champlain at a significant and ecologically diverse wetland complex in Town Farm Bay. The bay is also an active recreation site that hosts Point Bay Marina and two large summer communities (Thompson’s Point and Long Point).

Lewis Creek Association’s stream sampling program, performed by South Chittenden River Watch community volunteers, notes this catchment of Thorp Brook has high phosphorus and sediment loading during high flows that is accelerating the rate of eutrophication (i.e., an excessive nutrient load, particularly phosphorus and nitrogen, that drains into bodies of water, often resulting in an overgrowth of algae) of the widely valued wetland complex at Town Farm Bay.

The BOL neighborhood area is part of LCA’s “Ahead of the Storm” (AOTS) water quality improvement and education program. Thanks to the interested residents at Big Oak Lane and funding from a Vermont Watershed Grant, LCA’s AOTS optimal conservation practices were installed in August to improve stormwater management, enhance habitat, and increase flood resilience to accommodate more extreme weather events.

The Big Oak Lane Ahead of the Storm site was identified several years ago by LCA, its consulting engineers at Milone & MacBroom, Inc. and the State of Vermont. With 2016 state funding support, the engineers completed a site assessment and prepared engineered designs that were recently finalized with input from neighborhood residents. LCA’s recent Watershed Grant award, along with a landowner contribution, allowed for the final completion of the demonstration site installation. Lewis Excavating and Junior Lewis, along with his crew and help from some volunteer neighbors, completed the construction.

This project was designed to improve water quality entering Thorp Brook and will act as a site for public view and education. The project included the installation of a correctly sized 21-inch metal culvert (previously 15 inches) that passes underneath Big Oak Lane and four nature-based log check dams to stabilize a heavily eroding gully entering a Thorp Brook tributary. These green stormwater infrastructure practices allow water to “slow down, sink in, and spread out” to reduce erosion, nutrient loading and flood risk.

The purpose of Ahead of the Storm is to showcase a range of landscapes and land uses and how they can best mitigate stormwater flows and be more flood resilient in an effort to improve water quality in an ever-changing climate. Crucial to the success of LCA’s AOTS program are willing and interested property owners who are prepared to invest in not only the future of their property but the future of the community and the Lake Champlain Basin. Nice work, Big Oak Lane!

For more information on the Ahead of the Storm Program, visit the Lewis Creek Association website.