In the wake of Tropical Storm Irene Vermonters went to work. Nearly everyone with a backhoe took it upon themselves to be a part of the rebuilding process and they were heralded as heroes. But one year later environmental experts say someone should have pumped the brakes.
"It was a systemic breakdown from the people doing the work to the folks overseeing it to the state oversight which should have been in place," said Louis Porter of the Conservation Law Foundation.
Porter has been critical of the state for a lack of regulation during the emergency crisis.
"It's understandable, but really it's unfortunate. We're going to be paying the price for a lot of that work for a long time," Porter said.
"So much of the work that's done particularly initially is done to protect public safety," said Barry Cahoon, a river management engineer.
Cahoon was one of the few people on the ground who knew better than to ignore all permitting regulations, but says public safety took precedent and the state's message got muddled in crisis mode.
"On the minus side it tended to be interpreted by people as go into the rivers and do whatever they wanted," Cahoon said.
A Vt. Fish and Wildlife study shows 60 percent of fish in flooded areas did not survive excavation efforts.
"Seventy to eighty percent of our rivers have been channelized, bermed, dredged, flood plains were filled; that problem is everywhere," Cahoon said.
Cahoon says many areas where rocks were removed to rebuild roads are now more flood prone.
The White River Partnership put rocks in place along the side of the river to prevent future floods, but on the other side of this swift moving water you'll see trees and rocks have been removed, making it easier for the river to jump its banks in the event of future flooding.
"We are doomed to experience these events again," Cahoon said.
Cahoon says VTrans workers are now scouring the state working to mitigate flooding at these locations.
"It can take decades for rivers and fish populations to recover from bulldozers, excavators and man-made work in the streams," Porter said.
In many cases the damage may already be done. Both parties say education of town officials and a more careful allocation of resources in the future are key to preparing Vermont for another extreme storm.
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