Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Notes from the November flood mitigation meeting, part 1

Notes from last night's town flood mitigation meeting:
*These notes are rough. We welcome amendments and corrections!

I. Introduction
Warren King introduced the session by describing the planning process and background. After the disasterous 2008 floods, Ripton sought to reduce damage from future events. The emerging plan runs counter to current wisdom about river management, but is best suited to Ripton's conditions.

Timeline for the project: In March 2009 the subject came up at town meeting. Community involvement grew, grown by a May publish meeting to mull options. Contacts with Vermont river professionals led to the development of a plan, and winning funding from FEMA and the state of Vermont.

The purpose of this meeting (November 17) is to share developments with the town, while eliciting community responses and reflections.

II. Managing an unruly river
Next, Amy Sheldon explained the content of river management. When the 2008 floods struck, she and others were already working to improve the Middlebury river corridor's sustainability.

The current state of the art in river management holds that the best way to reduce flood damage is to let waters find their own equilibrium, shifting human construction and habitation accordingly. The state of Vermont is transitioning to this view, but the Ripton case is exceptional, due to local conditions (the closeness of village to water, plus costs).

Some work has already been done for the whole Middlebury River. For example, an East Middlebury bridge now has a properly sized span. A group has also purchased land on the south side of the river there, in order to led futures floods have room to carry water and silt. Upslope, this group is also working with landowners on the middle branch of the river.

In Ripton, the group is now working with landowners east/above the town to acquire land in order to allow future floods to run off there.

(The meeting continued with another presenter; see next post.)