On October 15, 2015

Report identifies top 32 local community economies as flood risks

Brandon and Woodstock receive detailed analysis and recommendations

On Oct. 6, Governor Shumlin announced the release of the final report on the Vermont Economic Resiliency Initiative (VERI), identifying Vermont’s top 32 communities where economic activity and associated infrastructure are at high risk of flooding. The report provides a how-to reference for towns and states interested in managing flood risk, reducing infrastructure damage and costs, and protecting local economies.

Based on this state-wide ranking, the communities of Barre City and Barre Town, Brandon, Brattleboro, Enosburg Village and Enosburg Town, and Woodstock received detailed river analysis and a roadmap of specific recommendations to reduce, avoid or minimize flood risks and assure local businesses quickly bounce back from disaster.

“As we recently saw in Barre and Plainfield, heavy rains and flash floods are becoming more frequent in Vermont,” said Shumlin. “Given that flooding occurs almost every year and costs individuals, businesses, and taxpayers millions of dollars, the investments we make today to reduce these costs make good business sense.”

“Partnership and collaboration after Irene was one of Vermont’s biggest strengths,” said Department of Housing and Community Development commissioner and project lead Noelle MacKay. “VERI continued this partnership with our sister agencies, regional planning commissions, and local communities by providing a step-by-step guide to reduce the costs of repetitive damage to roads and bridges and the impacts to local businesses.”

“This project is key to ensuring businesses remain open, goods and services can move, and Vermont’s economy remains strong after a disaster,” said Agency of Commerce and Community Development secretary Patricia Moulton. “If our communities engage in this work, we will be better prepared the next time another Irene hits.”

Work is currently underway in all five study communities to implement recommendations from the report. Barre is developing plans to buy out at-risk buildings along Gunner’s Brook; Brattleboro is pursuing the protection of a key parcel to increase floodwater capacity to protect downtown businesses. Brandon is designing an overflow system to protect the municipal offices and downtown businesses and ensure Route 7 remains open for business.

“Flooding from Irene damaged 26 businesses and closed Route 7 for several days,” said David Atherton, Brandon town manager. “Tackling a challenge like this is a heavy lift for a small town. The VERI team help us evaluate our risks and identify projects that would get us the biggest bang for the buck. With their help, we’re now moving forward on a project that will help protect our historic downtown from floods and keep Route 7 open for business.”

VERI was supported, in part, with funding from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration. The project was led by the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development, working with the agencies of Natural Resources and Transportation, regional planning commissions, and consulting river scientists.

“Storms are projected to become stronger and more frequent in Vermont. We are indebted to the VERI team for their work helping Woodstock prepare for a wetter future and protect lives, jobs and our local economy from future storms and floods,” said Michael Brands, Woodstock’s town planner and administrative officer.

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