Communities work to restore floodplains to improve flood resiliency

Published: Sep. 21, 2023 at 10:04 PM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont’s catastrophic flooding in July destroyed businesses and houses located near rivers and along floodplains. Now, state and local officials are trying to determine which should be moved to make the state more resilient to future flooding.

“There’s not really one answer for all the buildings, we’re really going to have to take it building by building, section by section, to try to decide what we need to do to floodproof each one of these buildings,” said Mike Miller, Montpelier’s director of planning and community development. He says the city can take the report to the property owner to share the most cost-effective options. “Then, we’ll go back to apply to additional grant funding to help those property owners make those changes, whether it’s putting a floodgate on their front door, or elevating or filling in a window or filling in the basement. It really depends on what their property is to determine what’s going to be the answer.”

Officials with the Vermont Natural Resources Council say restoring the floodplain to its natural state will ultimately help with the well-being of Vermont’s watersheds and at the same time avoid sprawl and poorly planned developments, “That allows us to protect our intact forests and wetlands and river corridors, which slow the spread of water,” said VNRC’s Kati Gallagher. “The way that we continue to develop without putting people in harm’s way is to do so through thoughtful, local, regional, and statewide planning.”

Miller says upsizing culverts and upgrading stormwater systems are part of the plans already in the works to protect historic downtown areas. “Even in these areas that we know are going to flood, there are actions and steps that we can take to encourage more flood protection and resiliency within them,” he said.

Miller says since those long-term projects take several years, short-term solutions for property owners include moving utilities away from lower floors. He also says some properties in floodplains might just need to be bought out.

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