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Award-Winning Handbook Helps Stabilize Shoreline in Vermont

"We decided to take the Monty Python approach and do something completely different."
Jurij Homziak,
Executive Director and Watershed Specialist for Lake Champlain Sea Grant

In the rush to protect homes and roads from dangerously eroding shorelines, homeowners and even municipal officials may make uninformed decisions that can actually make the problem worse. In some cases, if the homes or roads had been built in a less erosion-prone area, the problem wouldn't exist at all.

Coastal resource managers in Vermont have developed an award-winning handbook that clearly lays out erosion-control options for city officials and lakefront residents, and provides guidance on how to plan stabilization activities.

"Shoreline erosion is a significant threat to coastal communities in northern Lake Champlain, and sediment from erosion is a leading cause of water-quality impairment in Vermont," notes Jurij Homziak, executive director and watershed specialist for Lake Champlain Sea Grant.

The Shoreline Stabilization Handbook for Lake Champlain and Other Inland Lakes defines lake erosion issues in easy-to-understand language and evaluates 19 techniques for erosion control and stabilization. It provides detailed information on each option's cost, level of effort, environmental impact, and permitting requirements in both Vermont and New York.

The handbook resulted from discussions initiated by the Northwest Regional Planning Commission after winter ice left northern Lake Champlain with serious erosion problems, Homziak explains.

The planning commission, Lake Champlain Sea Grant, and representatives from about 30 state and federal agencies, local municipalities, and regional organizations around the lake identified the need for a comprehensive approach to shoreline stabilization.

Homziak, Northwest Regional Planning Commission Assistant Director Bonnie Waninger, and Susan Warren, aquatic biologist with the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation's Water Quality Division, co-edited the handbook.

"We all agreed that a lot of extension handbooks just sit on people's desks," says Homziak. "We decided to take the Monty Python approach and do something completely different."

An engineering firm provided the technical information, which was reviewed by the participating groups. A copywriter was hired to translate the resulting highly technical text into reader-friendly language, and a professional graphic artist designed the publication, which features commissioned watercolors instead of photographs.

"We wanted it to be visually friendly, and we wanted it to really stand out," Homziak says.

The result, he says, is that "planners can't put it down. We've gotten as much feedback on the way the material is presented as the content."

The publication has received numerous awards, including its selection by the American Planning Association in 2006 as the outstanding planning tool.

While broadly applicable, Homziak says the approaches described in the publication may be most useful in upland areas rather than coastal.

He adds, "This may not be the standard Sea Grant area, but we have to think about the whole watershed and take a mountains-to-the-sea type of approach."


To view The Shoreline Stabilization Handbook for Lake Champlain and Other InlandLakes, point your browser to www.uvm.edu/~seagrant/extension/erosion.html. For more information, you may contact Jurij Homziak at (802) 656-0682, or Jurij.Homziak@uvm.edu.

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