Vermont residents and businesses showcased both their self-reliance and their community spirit in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene. While many communities and individuals continue to grapple with the consequences of Irene, conversations are now shifting to addressing our long-term vulnerability to future storms and flooding.
In the aftermath of the 2011 floods, the Shumlin administration held 12 Community Recovery Partnership listening sessions throughout the state, designed to bring local, regional, state and federal partners together to document needs and identify ways we could do better. The stories, insights and criticisms shared by over 500 participants helped changed the way state agencies approach flood and disaster recovery. It also initiated a new federal, state and local partnership that developed a Vermont-based checklist to help communities across the nation determine how to safeguard from future flooding.
Now, with help from the US Economic Development Administration, state agencies and regional partners, steps are being taken to help cities and towns analyze local flood risks and help businesses and communities recover quickly in the event of a future flood event. The project is called the Vermont Economic Resilience Initiative, or VERI. It is modeled on the success of a similar project in Bennington that reduced the flood impacts of Tropical Storm Irene and saved the town and businesses millions of dollars in economic damages.
In the first phase of the project, the VERI team evaluated and ranked areas where economic activity (tourism, downtowns, agriculture) and associated infrastructure are at high risk of flooding. Based on this statewide assessment, seven pilot communities, including Barre City and Barre Town, will receive detailed analysis and tailored action plans with strategies to minimize losses to infrastructure, including roads, bridges and utilities. The first community meetings will be held on October 27, 2014 at the Aldrich Public Library in Barre City. Businesses, concerned residents and others are all invited to join the discussion. Once complete, the Barre local plan will provide a template for other towns to replicate. The checklist, information on VERI and the upcoming meetings and other resources and projects can be found on the Central Vermont Regional Planning Commission website.
Irene taught us many lessons. A key one was that no one individual, business, organization, town or state agency can address and tackle large and complicated projects alone. Reducing the risk of future floods in central Vermont will also require partnerships and collaboration. The Agency of Commerce and Community Development, its sister agencies, and the Central Vermont Regional Planning Commission are working together to help the region’s communities take the steps needed to save lives, protect jobs and make Vermont’s economy as resilient as possible from future storm and flood events.
A VERI Community Forum will be held on October 27, 2014 to analyze risk from flooding along Gunner Brook in Barre City and Barre Town. The meeting will be from 6 p.m.-8 p.m. at the Aldrich Public Library. Light refreshments will be provided. RSVP by October 22 to Dan Currier: firstname.lastname@example.org or (802) 229-0389.
This article is adapted from a piece written by Jeff Nugent, GIS Manager at the Windham Regional Commission.