September 30, 2014
Op-Ed submission by Noelle MacKay, Department of Housing and Community Development commissioner and resident of Shelburne
Vermont residents and businesses showcased their resourceful, self-reliant, community spirit in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene. While many communities and individuals continue to grapple with the consequences of Irene, the conversations have shifted to how we address 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 change 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 our regional partners are taking steps to help cities and towns analyze local flood risks and help businesses and communities recover quickly in the event of a flood.
The project is called the Vermont Economic Resiliency Initiative or VERI and 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 -- Barre City and Town, Brandon, Brattleboro, Enosburg Village and Town, and Woodstock -- will receive detailed analysis and tailored action plans with strategies to minimize losses to infrastructure (roads, bridges, utilities). Once complete, these local plans will provide templates for other towns to replicate.
The first community meetings is scheduled October 2, at the Billings Farm & Museum Theater Woodstock from 6:30-8:30 p.m. and we hope that businesses, concerned residents and others will join us. The checklist information on VERI and the upcoming meetings along with other resources and projects can be found on the Department of Housing and Community Development’s website at Plan Today for Tomorrow's Flood.
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 Vermont will also require partnerships and collaboration to break this task into more manageable pieces – and the Agency of Commerce and Community Development, its sister agencies and the regional planning commissions are working together to help Vermont communities take the steps needed to save lives and protect jobs and our economy from future storms and floods.
Source: Department of Housing and Community Development
Last Updated at: September 30, 2014 13:17:36