No one wants history to repeat itself. Record spring flooding two years ago caused problems for communities in Vermont, New York, and Quebec. Now all three areas are working to find a solution. "The opinion of some experts, the risk of catastrophic flooding like we've seen may be increasing," said Brian Chipman, member of the International Lake Champlain-Richelieu River Workgroup.
Brian Chipman worries this will happen again. Two years ago, Lake Champlain exceeded flood stage for 67 days. Close to 4,000 homes were damaged between Vermont, New York, and Quebec resulting in tens of millions of dollars in damage. It spawned the International Lake Champlain-Richelieu River Workgroup. The group developed plans to determine the best strategies to mitigate flooding.
Monday night, the public started weighing in on three proposed studies ranging in price from 5-million to 15-million dollars. The plans include looking at forecasting floods better with real time mapping. Another study, the most costly and controversial, calls for investigating whether building a dam and dredging outlets makes sense.
"We feel a 14 million dollar need of studies to explore potential regulations of lake levels, would not be a wise use of resources," said Mike Winslow of the Lake Champlain Committee.
"I very much urge that we do not fund or explore what we're calling here structural or engineered solutions that would effect the variation of lake levels in Lake Champlain," said Russ Ford of Friends of Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge.
As the three plans are being drafted informational meetings like this will continue. The group will present its final options to the International Joint Committee, which will then send its final recommendations to the governments of Vermont, New York and Quebec. But after the first night of public comment, it's clear, there's a long way to go before there's common ground on the best way to stop spring flooding.
"Whether or not the governments fund any of the options or all the studies, some of the studies. It's up to the governments to decide afterwards," said Anne Chick, senior advisor of the International Joint Commission.
Public meetings are scheduled to continue until March 18th. A final plan of the study will be submitted to the committee for recommendations in early April.