Stormwater-Related Articles

Below, we've collected a number of news articles regarding the potential stormwater utility, as well as more broadly related to the Clean Water Initiative. We'd like to thank the Colchester Sun for granting us permission to repost their articles. The articles are presented from earliest to most recent.

Town mulls more equitable stormwater fee

Osborne: ‘You pay based on how much stormwater runs off your land’
By Jason Starr
The Colchester Sun
April 16, 2015

For a variety of reasons, the town of Colchester needs to do more to clean up the water that flows into its streams and eventually feeds Malletts Bay.

According to Public Works Director Bryan Osborne, much of the town’s stormwater infrastructure is ripe for repair, new drainage installations are needed, the requirements associated with the town’s state and federal stormwater permits are getting more strict, and the water quality in Lake Champlain is under new scrutiny from the Environmental Protection Agency.

The town spends about $480,000 annually on stormwater management through its public works department, Osborne estimates. If Colchester were to satisfy its full list of stormwater needs — including new measures associated with tightening permit requirements, as well as discretionary measures to improve flood control, road erosion and water quality in the bay — the annual cost would be $2.3 million, he said.

“I don’t think it’s realistic that this community could afford that, but it’s important to benchmark what we have as needs and where we are,” he said. “As a community, we have choices to make.”

A stormwater advisory committee of town officials and concerned citizens is helping to make those choices. It has been meeting monthly since the new year to come to the right balance of stormwater improvement opportunities and citizens’ capacity to fund them. While the committee has not determined exactly what the town should tackle in a renewed stormwater control effort, it has agreed that the creation of a new funding mechanism is warranted.

The creation of a “stormwater utility” is something other Chittenden County municipalities, such as Williston, South Burlington and Burlington, have already put in place. Creating one in Colchester is the recommendation of a 2012 Environmental Protection Agency study of Colchester’s water resources called the Integrated Water Resources Management Plan. Osborne is preparing the town to initiate a stormwater utility, creating a separate stormwater management entity and a new stormwater coordinator position.

He plans to seek selectboard approval next year.

The “utility” style of funding would shift to a user-fee model and base contributions on the percent of hard (impervious) surface on a property. It’s a more equitable way of funding stormwater management than the current property tax system, Osborne said, because a property’s value is not directly linked to its contribution to stormwater pollution.

In order to assess stormwater fees based on a property’s contribution to the problem, the town would employ a geographic information system (GIS) consultant to “hand-digitize all impervious surface in town,” Osborne explained. Properties would then be assessed based on the square footage of impervious surface, including driveways, sidewalks and roofs – anything that is not soil or grass.

“You pay based on how much stormwater runs off your land,” he said.

Commercial property owners would see the biggest shift in stormwater costs, with some properties — those with bigger parking lots, for example — increasing their contributions and those with more undeveloped parcels decreasing theirs. For residential properties, the town would develop a standard fee by totaling the square-footage of residential impervious surface townwide, then dividing that by the number of homes to create an average amount of residential impervious service.

Although some variability of impervious surface exists among homeowners, the differences are small enough, and the number of homes great enough, that it is not cost-effective to account for the small differences, Osborne said — especially with the possibility of changes when homeowners build additions.

“There isn’t enough variability to warrant that much oversight,” Osborne said.

If the cost of stormwater management is shifted away from the town’s general fund, overall property taxes will be decreased, in theory. But whether that decrease is equal to a new stormwater utility fee remains unknown, as the fee will be based on how many of the town’s discretionary stormwater projects are undertaken.

The assessment will likely be sent with property tax bills, Osborne said.

Going to a user-fee style of funding will create new contributions from the properties in town that currently do not contribute to stormwater management because they are property-tax exempt. This includes properties with large amounts of impervious surface, such as St. Michael’s College, Colchester’s public schools, town buildings/roads and state buildings/roads as well as churches and non-profits.

With a utility in place, these entities would be supporting the town’s stormwater management for the first time. Credit would be given to entities that perform their own on-site stormwater mitigation, according to Osborne.

Jim Farrington is the director of facilities at St. Michael’s College and a member of the town’s stormwater advisory committee. He said the college has a “very mature and sophisticated (stormwater) system intact.” The college supports the town’s efforts to increase its stormwater management activities, he said, but he is keeping a close eye on how the college is assessed by a stormwater utility.

“We have a position that we have been dealing with all of our stormwater on campus without putting a drop of it into Colchester waterways,” Farrington said. “We are open to the discussion, but they are looking for us to pay a portion based on impervious surface, minus some credits. We’ll have to be in some discussion on that.

“We don’t believe we are contributing any stormwater. I’m not exactly sure how this is going to shake out.”

Sewer project gets leading man

Water district, town collaborate to lay clean water foundation
By Jason Starr
The Colchester Sun
July 30, 2015

A series of things have to fall into place for the Town of Colchester to transform wastewater treatment in and around Malletts Bay from on-site septic systems to a sewer line into Burlington. And the project now has a chief executive officer in Bryan Osborne, a public servant adept at attracting government grants and with probably the most detailed knowledge of Colchester’s water resources after spearheading an EPA-funded study on the subject in 2012.

Osborne, Colchester’s longtime public works director, said bringing the sewer line to Malletts Bay, along with other water quality initiatives aimed at reclaiming the health of Lake Champlain, would be the most worthwhile effort of his career.

“I think it’s the most important project and work that the Town of Colchester is going to take for its future and for the future of water quality in Lake Champlain and more specifically Malletts Bay,” Town Manager Dawn Francis said at a July 14 meeting of the Colchester Selectboard. “We’ve got the right guy in charge. He’s the one who can actually deliver this project.”

Installing Osborne to take the lead was the result of a recent agreement between the town and the water district that manages residential and commercial water delivery in Malletts Bay neighborhoods. It’s an area that has “multiple failed septic systems,” according to Francis. Geography and lot size constraints make replacing failed systems difficult or impossible. The failed systems contribute to bacteria loading and unhealthy water in Malletts Bay. Already this summer, Bayside Beach has been closed to swimming four times due to unsafe bacteria levels.

The water district has studied the costs and feasibility of constructing a sewer line in the area. Preliminary plans call for a pipe to begin at Goodsell Point, continue along East and West Lakeshore drives, Prim Road and Heineberg Drive, and end at Burlington’s wastewater treatment facility on North Avenue.

Stormwater drainage in the area is also inadequate and will be addressed as part of the sewer project, Francis said. A joint management team is envisioned to manage funding and construction consisting of water district board members and selectboard members. If constructed, the water district would own and operate the sewer line, charging rate-payers to help pay off the project’s debt. A memorandum of understanding will be needed to outline the town and water district’s relationship.

“It’s a partnership,” said selectboard member Marc Landry. “Their contributions have been in the area of studies. Our contributions will be in the area of staff.”

Officials are unwilling to hazard a guess on the cost of the project, which would need approval from Colchester voters to move forward. State and federal grants will be “key to keeping this project afloat,” Francis said. The town has submitted an application for a $6.5 million pollution abatement grant from the state of Vermont for the project.

The sewer line is also likely to require an estimate $5 million upgrade to Burlington’s North Avenue wastewater treatment facility. The scope of that upgrade, and the amount of Colchester’s wastewater the facility can take, will be the subject of future discussions with the city.

“The relationship, along with the technical and financial issues, with the city of Burlington is extremely complex and fragile. A concentrated effort is needed to navigate through the political, technical, and financial challenges related to this relationship,” Francis wrote in a July 15 memo to the selectboard.

According to the memo, informal discussions with Burlington officials indicate the city is willing to take on 300,000 gallons of wastewater from Colchester per day. Roughly 70 percent of that capacity would be used to serve existing homes and businesses in the Malletts Bay area, and 30 percent would be available for future growth. Osborne said more capacity can be negotiated with Burlington, altering that ratio closer to 50-50.

“I think we can free up capacity for development,” he said. “(Burlington) wants to sell the capacity. They are willing to do that provided their rate-payers are insulated from any additional cost.”

Francis said any new development in Malletts Bay that the sewer line spurs would be in keeping with what residents have envisioned for the area in recent public planning events. The Planning Commission is working to align land use regulations with the vision gathered at the events.

“Colchester residents want low-intensity development in the bay,” Francis said. “They want to keep the bay’s character and existing settlement pattern. We’re not looking for a lot of high-intensity growth in this area as a result of bringing in sewers.”

‘Erasing our footprint from Malletts Bay’

Board contemplates what it will take to protect the bay
By Jason Starr
The Colchester Sun
September 17, 2015

The Town of Colchester’s clean water initiative is forward-thinking and ambitious, a noble effort to protect the water of Malletts Bay for future generations. It’s also a challenge of finance and political will.

The Colchester Selectboard dove deep into the sticking points of a plan to completely capture Colchester’s stormwater runoff before it hits Lake Champlain and to better handle lakefront wastewater currently treated by on-property septic systems.

“I want to erase our footprint from Malletts Bay. I don’t want there to be a drop of stormwater going into Malletts Bay from town property,” Colchester Public Works Director Bryan Osborne said at a Sept. 8 selectboard meeting.

Using state-of-the-art infrastructure, Osborne said, stormwater can be infiltrated into soil instead of running into the lake — and carrying with it phosphorous and bacteria from the developed landscape.

Doing that not only requires money, but also land. Along the lakeshore in Malletts Bay, Osborne knows that property will be difficult to acquire. The west side of Lakeshore Drive fronts the shore, so stormwater improvements will need to be shoe-horned along the east side of the road where a sidewalk currently exists.

Osborne recalls negotiations with landowners 10 years ago that led to the sidewalk. Unwillingness from Lakeshore Drive landowners to negotiate easements for a wider paved recreation path led to the construction of the narrower sidewalk. To construct stormwater infrastructure, Osborne said, an additional 8 to 10 feet of right-of-way is needed. If that space is acquired, the town would widen the sidewalk to become the recreation path that was originally envisioned, he said.

According to Osborne, the selectboard’s policy a decade ago was to not invoke eminent domain to take private property for public uses. The current selectboard expressed at least a willingness last week to study the stormwater infrastructure Osborne is recommending on a wider right-of-way.

“If we want to work within the existing right-of-way, what gets done in the way of pedestrian improvements and managing stormwater along the shoreline looks very different than it would if we had more land,” Osborne said. “Obviously, with additional space, we’re going to be able to do a much better job of addressing both of those issues.”

The Lakeshore Drive shoulder is also the route of a planned sewer line to take residential wastewater to a treatment facility in Burlington, replacing on-site septic systems along Prim Road and Lakeshore Drive.
The town’s plan would be to install the sewer line, larger recreational path and stormwater infrastructure simultaneously at some point within the next five years. But cooperation from Lakeshore Drive landowners, or a strict eminent domain policy from the board, would be required.

“The folks who have property on West Lakeshore Drive are going to have to make a larger sacrifice than other people in the town,” selectboard member Herb Downing said. “We will be putting in a bike path like we should have all along. We have no stormwater infrastructure there now, so we’ll be building structures for that. And we’re going to be putting a sewer line in … When (they) go in, it’s not going to be a wonderful time for those folks.”

Another hurdle is the financial viability of a new fee-based fund Osborne is contemplating to support stormwater infrastructure. This “stormwater utility” would charge property owners a fee based on the amount of impervious surface on their properties. Currently, the town’s roughly $500,000 stormwater infrastructure budget is funded through property taxes based on home values. “

The stormwater budget now is paid for by everyone who pays taxes,” Downing explained. “The fairer way would be for the people who have more impervious surfaces to pay more money. The sooner we get that in place, the better off we’ll be.”

Using utility fees would increase total funding for stormwater because it would include for the first time nonprofits and government entities that are exempt from paying property taxes, including St. Michael’s College and the state of Vermont. Those entities would be charged for their impervious surfaces, which in the case of the state, includes state highways and the portion of Interstate 89 that runs through town.

The Vermont Agency of Transportation, however, has challenged the legality of a similar plan by the Town of Williston, according to Osborne. Until it is known whether the state would be subject to municipal stormwater utility fees, the financial viability of a Colchester stormwater utility will remain in doubt.

“There is a lot of state highway and interstate that runs through Colchester so it’s not an insignificant (amount),” Osborne said. “We are watching that very closely.”

The clean water initiative also targets residential onsite septic systems along the lakefront. In a 2012 study of Colchester’s water resources, the Environmental Protection Agency found trace amounts of human excrement in about 10 percent of the water samples tested along the Malletts Bay shoreline.

A municipal sewer that the town is partnering with the Malletts Bay water district and City of Burlington to develop would eliminate the need for on-site systems along Lakeshore Drive and Prim Road. But other areas of town could benefit from more stringent requirements for operating septic systems, Planning and Zoning Director Sarah Hadd said.

“We’ve had a lot of property owners in Colchester move on to their properties oblivious to the fact that they aren’t paying a sewer bill and that there is a septic system on their property,” Hadd said.

In most areas, “educational outreach” about proper septic maintenance would suffice, Hadd said. But systems in areas where a septic failure would be most damaging, an operating permit system could be developed requiring periodic inspections, Hadd said.

Colchester is home to about 6,000 on-site septic systems, Osborne said.

“We are aware of some problematic areas in Colchester that will never see sewer,” said Hadd.

Turning to Burlington for sewer agreement

Stricter standards, Colchester needs may force upgrade of North Avenue facility
By Jason Starr
The Colchester Sun
November 25, 2015

The town of Colchester is brokering a partnership between Colchester’s Fire District No. 2 and the City of Burlington to set a foundation for a sewer line proposed to take the wastewater from homes and businesses lining Malletts Bay to Burlington’s North Avenue treatment facility.

The project has long been a vision of fire district administrators, and the statewide focus on Lake Champlain phosphorous and bacteria pollution has created a new climate of urgency and cooperation. The project would relieve Malletts Bay of the old and, in some cases, failing on-site septic systems and help the state of Vermont meet new obligations under a Total Maximum Daily Load plan authored by the Environmental Protection Agency and finalized earlier this year.

The sewer proposal has always been saddled with unknowns. A cost estimate of $16 million is now stale, and grant funding applications remain pending. Support has been historically hard to garner from fire district ratepayers for incurring project debt, as well as from Colchester taxpayers wary of new development the sewer line could spur.

Superimposed on that challenging background are the new maximum daily load requirements. Under the new limits, wastewater treatment facilities are required to reduce phosphorous in their output from an average of .8 parts per million to an average of .2 parts per million.

According to City of Burlington Public Works Director Chapin Spencer, the city’s water resources division has been working this year to optimize the facility’s existing processes to try to consistently meet the new standard. The city plans to run a year of optimized wastewater treatment before determining if costly upgrades to the facility will be required.

Burlington Chief Wastewater Operator Tim Grover said the facility is currently running at roughly half its capacity. So the ability to handle Malletts Bay-area wastewater is there. But whether it can handle it and meet the stricter standards of the maximum daily load plan is an unanswered question. There is a margin for error at the facility under current flows, Grover said. That margin would be reduced with flows from Colchester.

Spencer said the city would seek assurances in any agreement with Colchester Fire District No. 2 that facility upgrade expenses attributable to a sewer line from Malletts Bay be borne by fire district ratepayers. “

Adding flows from Colchester may present challenges, depending on the optimization efforts we are undertaking,” Spencer said. “The jury is still out on what we will have to do and what is the most effective route to minimize phosphorous from entering Lake Champlain.

“We would need to make sure Burlington ratepayers don’t pay for upgrades needed for Colchester flows.”

Concurrent with the federally mandated maximum daily loads and the Vermont Clean Water Act passed this year, the town of Colchester has launched its own “clean water initiative.” It’s a combination of stormwater improvements and wastewater improvements designed to ensure a clean future for the water in Malletts Bay. With periodic spikes of E. coli bacteria, as well as phosphorous loading in the bay attributable to onsite septic systems, the sewer pipe proposal is an essential piece of a clean water future, Colchester Public Works Director Bryan Osborne said.

“We have a documented bacteria problem in Malletts Bay, and we can’t manage it without the Malletts Bay sewer project,” Osborne said. “And we can’t advance the project without an agreement with the City of Burlington.”

Spencer, Osborne’s counterpart in Burlington, noted that the two communities similarly value a cleaner lake, and that will inform their collaboration. An agreement is in its early stages, Osborne said. The only thing currently promised between the town, city and fire district is a commitment to work one out.

“We are working with communities that all have a common goal to improve and protect water quality in Lake Champlain,” Osborne said. “We don’t expect to have all the answers at this point.”

An ‘epic’ undertaking for Malletts Bay

Town approaches revitalization on all fronts
By Jason Starr
The Colchester Sun
Feb. 18, 2016

Decades of planning for water quality improvements, traffic management and recreation facilities were condensed into a 90-minute presentation for the Colchester Selectboard on Feb. 9 to highlight the town’s renewed effort to make positive changes in and around Malletts Bay.

Town Manager Dawn Francis is leading a multi-faceted initiative that looks ahead to mid-century with a vision of a waterfront health and wellness center, a lakeshore bike path, better road intersections and reduced stormwater and wastewater impacts. The vision is fueled by citizen input gathered at recent public forums and founded in plans that date back to the 1980s. Francis noted that implementation decisions will rest with Colchester voters and depend on the town’s ability to afford or garner grants for the improvements.

“I want to encourage everyone to stay involved,” she said. “Let us know your thoughts on all of these initiatives.”

Perhaps the most costly proposal (an estimated $19 million) calls for a sewer line to carry wastewater from Prim Road, Lakeshore Drive and Goodsell Point into the City of Burlington’s North Avenue treatment facility. The sewer line would protect Malletts Bay from aging on-site residential septic systems near the shoreline — 13 of which have failed over the past five years threatening the bay with e-coli bacteria, according to Public Works Director Bryan Osborne.

Colchester’s Water District No. 2, which would run the sewer line, has drafted a preliminary agreement with the City of Burlington to ensure the treatment facility has the capacity to serve Malletts Bay neighborhoods. The town is pursuing a $6.5 million grant from the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation for the project.

In addition to keeping wastewater out of the bay, the sewer line would enable new commercial and residential growth that is currently limited by geographic constraints on new septic systems. The Colchester Planning Commission is working to get ahead of the possibility of new development by reconsidering the town’s lakefront zoning regulations.

A draft proposal that was first presented for public comment in October and will undergo a new round of public scrutiny in April would create two new zoning districts to replace existing zoning: a “Lakeshore One” zone would regulate properties between Lakeshore Drive and the water line, and a “Lakeshore Two” zone would affect properties with road frontage on the nonlake side of the road. Both districts would mandate that stormwater runoff created by new impervious surfaces be captured and treated on-site before being allowed to flow into the watershed.

“The clean water initiative really represents the most comprehensive effort ever taken by this community to improve and protect the water resources in Malletts Bay,” Osborne said. “It is of epic significance.”

Stormwater management throughout the Malletts Bay area, with specific focus on upland streams that are classified under the federal Clean Water Act as impaired, is also a water quality imperative for the town.

“Pretty much anywhere you go in the community you can find some type of drainage problem,” Osborne said.

An Environmental Protection Agency/Town of Colchester study completed in 2013 recommended the town start a fee-based stormwater utility similar to those found in Burlington, Williston and South Burlington to fund stormwater projects.

Currently, the town’s stormwater projects are supported by property taxes through the town’s general fund budget. The utility would instead base stormwater funding on properties’ impervious surfaces.

“There is a lot of feeling that the value of people’s property has very little nexus to how much stormwater runs off that property,” Osborne explained. “(Stormwater) expenses would come off the property tax rate and move over to a fund where people are billed on how much impervious surface they have on their properties.”

The utility would also fund a stormwater management coordinator.

“We think that’s important,” said Osborne. “Right now, no one single town employee has the time, unfortunately, to focus entirely on stormwater. So we’re really looking for a concentrated effort.”

In addition to water quality improvements, the overall Malletts Bay initiative lays out ways to better manage cars traveling through the area. Osborne identified several intersections that are in the Vermont Agency of Transportation queue for attention in the coming years.

The intersection of Lakeshore Drive and Prim Road will be reconfigured to improve left turns, and a traffic signal will be added. The intersection of Laker Lane and Blakely Road will be enhanced with new turning lanes. The former circumferential highway right-of-way will be studied to potentially provide a bypass road to take through traffic away from the lakeshore. And the intersection in front of Bayside Park will be studied for design improvements. Also, a bike path is planned to replace the sidewalk along West Lakeshore Drive from Bayside Park to Prim Road.

At the same time, the Department of Parks and Recreation has initiated a master plan study of Bayside Park and of a “health and wellness center” on townowned land on the north side of Blakely Road fronting East Lakeshore Drive.

“I’m sure all of you are looking at what are the potential costs of all these projects,” Town Manager Francis said. “We’re in the process of refining the costs … It’s dependent on funding we can’t predict right now. We’re looking under every rock in terms of grant opportunities.

“All of this starts with a vision,” she said. “We’ve come a long way. There is a ways to go.”

New fee structure protects bay

By Jason Starr
The Colchester Sun
July 14, 2016

Colchester officials have figured out a way to pay for the town’s increasing obligation to protect water quality in Malletts Bay.

Public works director Bryan Osborne and a committee of community leaders presented an ordinance change proposal to the selectboard last week that would impose a fee on all property owners based on the amount of impervious surface on their parcels.

The town currently tackles stormwater management projects with a property-tax-funded budget of about $450,000, according to Osborne. If the fee scheme is implemented by next fiscal year, it will nearly double the town’s stormwater management budget. That will still only be about a third of the annual need, Osborne said.

Stormwater infrastructure removes pollutants from storm runoff before it enters Lake Champlain.

“As a lakeside community, while we are doing a lot, we’re really only scratching the surface,” he said. “We are simply not doing enough. We have so many areas where the drainage systems are old and failing. We have so many parts of town that don’t have any drainage systems at all.”

Three other nearby communities have implemented a fee-based stormwater management budget: Burlington, South Burlington and Williston. The selectboard plans public hearings on the issue this fall.

The change would create a stormwater fund and billing/ collection system separate from property tax collections. All homeowners would pay the same fee based on an average of residential impervious surfaces in town. Impervious is defined in the ordinance as any-thing that does not allow the normal infiltration of rain water into the ground — such as driveways, patios, roofs and awnings.

“There will be a uniform price that all single-family residential properties pay,” Osborne said.

He expects the homeowner fee will roughly equal the reduction in property taxes that comes with taking stormwater management out of the town’s general fund.

Contributions would increase for most commercial properties.

The ordinance would also allow the town to collect stormwater fees for the first time from government and non-profit properties exempt from property taxes. These include St. Michael’s College, University of Vermont buildings, local churches and the federal lands of the Vermont National Guard at Camp Johnson.

New revenue would also come from the Vermont Agency of Transportation for the impervious sur- faces associated with the Colchester sections of Route 7 and Interstate 89.

Even the municipality would pay into the fund based on its own buildings and roads. The only properties exempted in the proposal are undeveloped parcels with less than 500 square feet of impervious surfaces.

Before public hearings this fall, Osborne will quantify all the impervious surface subject to the fees to hone estimates of homeowner costs and how much revenue the program will generate.

Property owners will be allowed credits to reduce their fees if they have stormwater infrastructure in place. St. Mike’s, for example, has its own stormwater treatment system to handle the campus’ impervious surfaces.

The move to a fee-based system was recommended by a 2012 Environmental Protection Agency study of Colchester’s water resources. It would coincide with the state’s increased clean water requirements under the 2015 Clean Water Act and stricter runoff regulations in the federal Lake Champlain cleanup plan the EPA revised earlier this year.

Input sought for Malletts Bay projects

By Michaela Halnon
The Colchester Sun
January 19, 2017

Colchester officials are asking for public participation as they begin studying three projects included in the Malletts Bay Initiative, an expansive effort to revamp the lakeshore region.

The trio of subprojects in question includes a stormwater management system for the bay and its upland watersheds, bike and pedestrian improvements along West Lakeshore Drive (between Prim and Blakely roads) and capacity upgrades at the intersection of East and West Lakeshore Drive and Blakely Road.

Public works director Bryan Osborne says his staff, with help from the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission, are completing a scoping study to identify multiple approaches to each endeavor.

On Thursday, Jan. 19 at 6:30 p.m., the town is hosting an open house and subsequent presentation to lay out the details of these proposed upgrades and hear feedback from residents.

“These are important issues that everyone has an interest in,” Osborne said. “Everybody cares about the lake. Everybody drives through the bay.”

The multi-step study itself comes with a $188,000 price tag, though Osborne said $100,000 of that total is paid for by a grant from the CCRPC. The remaining cost is covered in the town’s capital budget program.

Osborne estimates the stormwater project will cost $10 million and puts a West Lakeshore Dr. bike path at around $2 million. Upgrades to all intersections specified under the MBI could run up to $5 million, Osborne said.

But a sizeable chunk of that total is already covered by grants in hand, Osborne said. Some projects are already paid in full without a taxpayer penny, and town officials are actively pursuing a “basket” of other funding sources to chip away at the remaining balance, Osborne said.

That’s another benefit of involving the public at the onset, Osborne said: It helps ensure the projects are “generally supported” before they progress too far – thereby convincing grant-givers their funds won’t be squandered on an unpopular plan.

The transportation and stormwater project kicked off last November, shortly before the town hired engineers to collect “existing condition” information in the areas of interest. The selectboard will endorse their preferred alternatives in June, according to the project schedule. A final study report should be available in October.

Polling the public is typical for scoping studies, but Osborne said it’s essential in Colchester, especially when it comes to the bay.

“You have a lot of people in the community that have a really strong knowledge base of water quality, which makes this kind of a process all that more effective,” he said.

Many folks, for example, might have a hard time envisioning the benefits of a new stormwater management system. But bay frequenters, Osborne said, are sure to understand the need. “Every time it rains, you watch the water go by and it’s kind of out of control,” Osborne said. “It’s not being received by anything. It’s just running off and going wherever it wants to, sometimes without any treatment.”

That runoff collects a slew of things from the land and pavement, Osborne explained. That includes phosphorus, bacteria from pet waste, metals and petroleum products to name a few.

The water can also become heavily laden with sediment if the streams it travels through begin to erode. That’s happening more and more as upland watersheds feed into the bay.

“If you wanted to, you could watch the shorelines of Malletts Bay,” Osborne said. “You could see what’s coming out of these stormwater outfalls.”

That wasn’t always the case.

When the area was undeveloped, Osborne said, stormwater was largely absorbed by the land. As it slowly crept back to the lake, it did not collect pollutants or run rampantly through the streams.

The traditional solution, known as “hard infrastructure,” collects stormwater, pipes it away to a receiving fixture and then channels it through a stream or waterway back into the lake.

But an alternative method the town is exploring aims to get closer to those pre-development conditions.

The practice, known as green stormwater infrastructure, emphasizes infiltration and treatment, and tries to avoid discharging to a waterway. But GSI requires something the bay area is short on – open land.

“We’re not starting with a blank slate,” Osborne said. On highly developed East Lakeshore Drive, for example, it’s hard to see where water could infiltrate.

The town could create some additional infrastructure and pump collected water to an empty parcel of land, where it could then be absorbed. But such a solution is likely to cost more, Osborne said.

Ultimately, he says the town plans to use GSI wherever it’s practical and affordable and will supplement with the traditional infrastructure as needed.

The stormwater and transportation projects are working in conjunction with other town-wide efforts, Osborne said. That includes a planned sanitary sewer system as well as the new community center and park upgrades – estimated to cost $25 million and $40 million respectively, according to Osborne.

Coordinating all the major construction projects is a challenge, but Osborne said he hopes most – if not all – can be completed simultaneously.

“I don’t want Malletts Bay to be under construction for five years,” he said. That might mean holding some smaller ventures, like intersection upgrades, until the bigger ones, like the sewer system, are ready to go.

Some of the projects directly affect each other, like the pedestrian improvements on West Lakeshore Drive and the proposed tunnel connecting upper and lower Bayside Park. Town officials are keeping that overlap in mind during this planning process, Osborne said.

Ideally, Osborne said all MBI projects – with the exception of the community center – will be completed by 2022. For more information about the stormwater and transportation scoping study included in the Malletts Bay Initiative, and the public meeting on Thursday, Jan. 19 at 6:30 p.m., visit www.ccrpcvt. org/malletts-bay-initiative.