GROTON -- With no half measures being taken by recent storm events, local conservationists have decided that the time has come to raise awareness about the threat of erosion to environmentally sensitive river and stream banks that could wash away with heavy rain or flooding caused by melting snows.
"For streams that don't have as much flow in them, erosion might seem worse than in rivers," said Mark Archambault, the Nashua River Watershed Association's Smart Growth Circuit Rider. "Large rivers like the Merrimack and the Nashua, with larger flood plains, have some place for the excess water to go, but smaller streams don't. It's an aspect of the problem that people would discuss after the workshops and where in-town erosion might be likely."
To help raise awareness of the potential danger to local streams and rivers, the NRWA has invited environmental engineer Mickey Marcus to speak at a special presentation to be held next month called "Saving the Banks: River and Stream Bank Resiliency and Infrastructure in the Face of Climate Change."
According to an NRWA news release, Marcus "will discuss how infrastructure can be made more resilient in the face of more frequent flooding, and how municipalities can plan for the inevitable disruptions that a changing climate will bring to riverine resources.
"Marcus will also discuss his experience with river restoration projects following tropical storm Irene in Massachusetts and Vermont, and hurricane Lee in New York.
"It was my idea basically to invite Mickey Marcus," said Archambault. "We're trying to do a series of four workshops that are based on a water resource protection guide that I prepared a year and a half ago. One of our other staff knew him from a previous lecture. He's a recognized authority on erosion control and the effects of storm damage. We were looking for something related to erosion control that would be interesting to people. How can we better protect river banks given the frequency of and severity of flooding events?"
When asked if climate change could be blamed on human activity, if it exists at all, Archambault was measured in his response.
"I think humans are contributing to it and making it more severe," he said. "The NRWA doesn't have any special position on the issue. The purpose of our organization is to protect our water resources no matter the cause and if there is flooding, we want the town to know how to deal with it."
That said, the NRWA administrator did note that in his own opinion, climate change of some kind was a sure thing.
"I certainly believe it exists, and 99 percent of scientists do too," Archambault said, adding that the effects of the change are what the NRWA wants to bring to public attention. "We're beginning to see the effect of change with these freaky storms we've been having."
Although Archambault was unable to identify specific areas in town where local river or stream banks faced the peril of erosion, he said that if found, there were simple things that could be done to protect them for the future.
"Having vegetation, especially trees with good root systems that hold soil together and helps to make it more resistant to erosion is probably the best thing you can do for the problem," said Archambault.
In more extreme cases, regrading and laying down of special netting to hold the soil in place at steeper inclines could also be used much as it is sometimes used by construction firms working close to wetlands areas.
To learn more about the subject, members of the public are urged to attend the May 7 presentation and listen in as Marcus, founder of Amherst based New England Environmental Inc. discusses the problems of erosion in an era of increasing storm activity.
Scheduled for 7 to 9 p.m, the event will be held at the NRWA's River Resource Center, 592 Main St.
NRWA administrators expect subsequent workshops on the subject will also be useful to members of local land-use boards and committees, including planning boards, conservation commissions, stormwater committees and highway departments.
Registration for the event is required with the workshop portion limited to the first 40 people to sign up. To register, those interested should contact Archambault at 978-448-0299 or email him at MarkA@NashuaRiverWatershed.org.