The two-tier ditch design has been in practice on Midwest farms for over a decade. This concept requires digging out the ditch banks two to three feet above the bottom of the existing ditch channel, creating a flat bench on both sides of the ditch. The banks from the bench to the farm field are then graded to expand the ditch to between 12-15 feet on either side of the original channel, mimicking a natural flood plain. It’s this natural flood plain design that allows more space for water to distribute during a flooding event.

Funding a Two-Tier Ditch Project

The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) awarded funding to the Friends of Northern Lake Champlain (FNLC).  A grant was made possible through the Clean Water Initiative Project (CWIP).

The CWIP initiative funds, tracks and reports on water quality projects to federal and state partners.  Projects funded through the CWIP must reduce phosphorous loads in Lake Champlain.

Bouchard Farm Two-Tier Ditch Project

Flooding on Bouchard Farm
Bouchard Farm during flood event before the two-tier ditch.

Greg Bouchard, owner of Bouchard Family Dairy in Franklin, Vermont, explains, “When I saw the two-stage ditch design, I said I know of a good place for that, but how do we get that here?” The Bouchards contacted the Friends of Northern Lake Champlain for assistance to navigate the process.

two-tier ditch holding water after flooding.
Bouchard Farm two-tier ditch after completion.

A $47,000 grant was awarded to FNLC to construct a two-tier ditch system. The new ditch system will reduce bank erosion and encourage settling of sediments on an intermediary bench during high flow water events.

Monitoring the Two-Tier Ditch

Seeding down around two-tier ditch

Monitoring of the two-tier ditch will access the speed and absorption of water during high rainfall events.  Water flow should progress slow enough through the two-tier ditch allowing for absorption in the designated area. Native wetland plantings will reduce the amount of phosphorous washed into nearby waterways that feed Lake Champlain. Evaluation of the soil surrounding the ditch will determine phosphorous loads before and after the project for 5 years. Ultimately, federal and state agencies will share valuable information collected with Vermont farmers.

“We need to know how many pollutants, how much phosphorus the two-tier ditch is keeping out of Lake Champlain.  By building and monitoring this sort of project on farms, we will have the necessary information,” said Dr. Kent Henderson of FNLC. “The results from this pilot project will further development and implemention by land owners across the state to improve water quality.”

Do you have a Two-Tier Ditch Project?

Are you a landowner with a ditch that overflows during flooding events?  Grant funding may be available for your project through the Agency of Natural Resources.  FNLC can provide assistance to get you through the grant and permitting process.  Contact FNLC and start your project today.

“We’re always trying to do better” said Greg Bouchard.  “With these types of partnerships working for water quality and farming, we will.”