Green Infrastructure Collaborative and Vermont DEC Launch Clean Water Project Assessment in the Field

By Lake Champlain Sea Grant Staff
January 10, 2023

The Green Infrastructure Collaborative, a partnership between Lake Champlain Sea Grant and the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Clean Water Initiative Program, supports the roll out of Vermont’s Act 76, the 2019 Clean Water Service Provider Rule. Act 76 requires distribution of funding to regional planning commissions and other organizations, called Clean Water Service Providers (CWSPs), to support Vermont’s pollution reduction goals.

CWSPs administer grants distributed to partner organizations to identify, implement, and maintain non-regulatory (not required by state or federal law) Clean Water Projects that prevent nutrient and sediment pollution from washing off the landscape into Vermont’s rivers, lakes, and wetlands. Projects include river and floodplain restoration, dam removal, green stormwater infrastructure, and road erosion mitigation. 

“Under Act 76, for the first time, DEC will provide funding for operation and maintenance (O&M) of clean water projects once they are installed,” said Helen Carr, Environmental Analyst at Vermont DEC. “This funding ensures that projects implemented with state funds function as intended for a long lifespan.”

Staff make routine verification visits to implemented projects to inspect establishment of planted vegetation, assess for accumulation of sediment and debris, and check for erosion or other damage. If issues are identified that impact the function of the project, CWSPs will have funding to fix those issues. 

Developing Standards for Verification 

For the past several years, DEC has worked to develop policies to establish an O&M program that ensures projects are evaluated using consistent and clear methods. Standards for verifying projects that CWSP funding will support were developed with input from DEC programs and external partners who work on these projects. Staff use the ESRI Survey123 application to collect this data in the field. Each project type has a Survey123 form with questions specific to elements of that project. Some example questions include:  

  • Are there signs of erosion in the floodplain? (River projects) 
  • Are the plantings healthy? (Projects that include planted vegetation) 
  • Are there any signs of ice push? (Lakeshore restoration projects) 

The group conducting the verification visit generates a summary report that includes findings from the visit with suggested maintenance actions or confirmation that the project is functioning as designed. The report is sent to the party responsible for coordinating maintenance activities.  

Project verification throughout the life of a project is an important process to ensure that the project continues to function as intended, and it provides confidence in the use of state dollars toward funding clean water investments.

“Another benefit I hope we foster through this program is to encourage a ‘design for maintenance mindset’ where the knowledge of maintenance is used to inform future project designs,” said Jill Sarazen, Lake Champlain Sea Grant’s Green Infrastructure Collaborative Coordinator. “If a project can be easily and consistently maintained—or if an aspect is unmaintainable, designers should know that for planning and installing new projects going forward.”

The Green Infrastructure Collaborative and DEC anticipate that this program will continue to grow as more projects are installed and a dataset of verification visits is established.   


DEC expects that many partner organizations will be contracted by CWSPs to participate in clean water project verification throughout Vermont. The Collaborative is working with DEC to create and implement trainings to support this capacity development in the clean water workforce.  

This past 2022 field season, the Collaborative and DEC piloted verification trainings to test the survey questions at sites of established clean water projects and gather feedback from partners to improve methods. These trainings increased engagement in clean water project verification and fostered partnership with several watershed organizations, natural resource conservation districts, several DEC programs, and engineering and design groups.  

In 2023, CWSPs will provide funding for operation and maintenance activities for clean water projects in their basins. DEC will be offering more trainings on the O&M standards process for practitioners who are interested in learning these skills.

To learn more, contact jillian.sarazen [at] (Jillian Sarazen) at Lake Champlain Sea Grant.