Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Preserving the Tankerhoosen

By Suzanne Carlson
Journal Inquirer
Published: Saturday, March 20, 2010 12:07 AM EDT

TOLLAND — Representatives from the Inland Wetlands Commission and experts from the community are giving residents ideas on how to help preserve the Tankerhoosen River.

“It’s important to know how a wetland functions and what the values of it are, so we can know what kind of impacts we’re having and how to mitigate those impacts,” John Ianni, a local soil and wetlands scientist, said at a meeting Monday in the Lodge at Crandall Park.

The basis for the discussion was the Tankerhoosen River Watershed Management Plan, a document developed by consulting firm Fuss & O’Neill that was published last March by the Friends of the Hockanum River Linear Park.

The introduction to the plan explains that the 12.9-square-mile basin of the Tankerhoosen River “has long been recognized as an important natural resource and a key inland watershed critical to the health of Long Island Sound.”

About 70 percent of the Tankerhoosen lies within the town of Vernon, but portions also cross into Bolton, Manchester, and Tolland.

Ann Letendre of the Friends of the Hockanum River Linear Park commended the municipality for its commitment to watershed protection.

“The town of Tolland is right in the forefront, you are well known in the state for adopting low impact development regulations, so congratulations to Tolland for doing this,” Letendre said.

Ianni stressed the importance of residents helping to protect not only the Tankerhoosen, but also surrounding upland habitats and other wetlands, such as Tolland marsh, which have an impact on the overall health of the watershed and provide important habitat for wildlife.

The plan identifies roof water runoff as a major concern because, as Ianni explained, stormwater not only washes leaked car fluids and other chemicals from the street into wetlands, but natural elements in the soil that can be harmful in high quantities.

“As you get more soil washing into ponds, you get more phosphorus, and that can produce a lot of algae,” Ianni said.

But identifying the causes of contamination in the Tankerhoosen wasn’t the only purpose for Monday’s meeting.

“One of my fears was that people would think we’re trying to tell you how to use your property,” said Lee Lafountain, chairman of the Inland Wetlands Commission and one of the organizers for the meeting.

“We just wanted to show you some options for things that can be done. Let’s take some small steps,” Lafountain added.

James Gorman, owner of Creative Exteriors landscape design and member of the Planning and Zoning Commission’s Design Review Advisory Board, said that for residents whose lawns abut the Tankerhoosen, creating a buffer along the riverbank with native plants and boulders can be both affordable and aesthetically pleasing. Gorman also advised the use of organic pesticides and permeable concrete, which filters rainwater and prevents parking lot or driveway flooding.

Action Water Gardens owner Mark Sousa also gave some practical advice on how to harness that potentially harmful rain water and put it to good use.

“A 75-gallon rain barrel is somewhere to start; any type of rain harvest would make a big difference,” Sousa said. The rainwater collected can then be diverted with a simple irrigation system onto gardens or lawns. He also said that strategically placed “water gardens” can mimic wetland ecosystems, which filter rainwater naturally.

Homeowners with questions about how they can help implement the management plan, or concerns about cost, are encouraged to seek help from any of the numerous resources available to them.

“Get some help, it’s not a difficult thing to do, and we’d be more than willing to give you some advice,” Gorman said.

Lafountain also said the Inland Wetlands Commission would welcome questions from residents and could help homeowners find resources to make eco-friendly landscaping and riverbank repair as affordable as possible.

“You as homeowners and landowners have the biggest impact, and not in a detrimental sense,” Ianni said. He explained that making a few simple choices can have a significant impact on the health of surrounding wetlands.

He also reminded residents that when possible, a natural approach to wetlands restoration is always best. “Mother Nature has plans, and her plans are much greater than we can produce,” Ianni said.

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