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To The Editor:
The amount of gravel mining that is ongoing in the Mad River Valley watershed is concerning. It is acknowledged that a limited amount of gravel mining was and is necessary to protect public infrastructure and private property and to provide material to repair roads from recent flood damage.
However, the ongoing extensive gravel mining that is occurring appears to be because the governor “cut the red tape” and is allowing for the uncontrolled and undocumented stockpiling of seemingly “free” gravel. Unfortunately, when our governor gave carte blanche to our towns he was obviously uninformed of the numerous and well-documented negative physical and ecological effects of excessive gravel mining on streams.
Focusing here only on the physical impacts, removing large volumes of gravel from a river generally tends to increase the instability of the river resulting in increases in stream bank erosion and or deeper scouring of the streambed. Furthermore, as floodplains allow for the slowing of floodwaters, when we cut off the river's ability to access the floodplain by digging deeper into the streams, we are causing an increase in depth and a resultant increase in velocity that allows floodwaters greater power to erode during the next flood event. The impacts of gravel mining can extend far upstream and downstream of the actual gravel mining site. So, while we are currently enjoying seemingly “free” gravel from the streams, we need to consider the actual future cost to our towns and especially to our residents who live and own property adjacent to our streams.