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Flooding is the greatest natural disaster risk in Vermont and in the Rutland region. Two-thirds of flood damages in Vermont happen outside of federally mapped flood areas, which is twice as high as the national average. Heavy rain is the most frequent cause of flooding but melting ice and snow, ice jams, and dam failures cause it, too. RRPC wants Rutland County communities to be as strong, resilient, and as law-abiding as possible in the face of flooding.
Municipal & Regional Flood Resilience Plan Legislation states that municipal and regional plans adopted or readopted after July 1, 2014, must include a flood resilience element. This makes economic sense as well because resilient towns bounce back faster and there are financial incentives, such as the State of Vermont's Emergency Relief Assistance Fund (ERAF) for resiliency planning.
• Don’t build or fill in floodplains, wetlands, and near stream channels.
• Reduce the amount of impervious surface, which will slow, sink, and spread stormwater.
• Properly construct and maintain culverts, roads, and ditches and require private ponds to be constructed to avoid failure.
• Maximize financial positions by taking full advantage of ERAF and by participating in NFIP, the National Flood Insurance Program.
• Establish evacuation and other appropriate plans to increase life safety.
There are two main types of flooding in Vermont: inundation flooding and fluvial (river-related) erosion. Inundation flooding occurs when the water rises and covers the land. Fluvial erosion is when the volume and force of waters traveling through a stream or river channel erode the land and washes away what once stood on it: roads, trees, homes, everything.
While inundation-related flood loss is a significant component of flood disasters, fluvial erosion is the predominant cause of damage. Fluvial erosion hazard mitigation can lead to enhanced public safety and reduce long-term flood damages. Visit the water quality section of our site for more in-depth info about fluvial erosion.
The river corridor is the area that provides the physical space, or buffer, that a river needs to move so that the force of the water can be dispelled naturally. This is the area most likely to flood or erode during storm events.
Property within a river corridor can be “protected” by discouraging new development within its bounds. Protecting river corridors can be done through adopting zoning ordinances or regulations at the local level. Communities that protect river corridors are eligible for the highest available rate through ERAF.
RRPC can help to draft regulations that make sense for your community.
Floodplains are areas where water flowing out over river banks spreads. River corridors and floodplains often overlap. Floodplains serve an important natural function: they act like sponges and absorb water that has spread out across it.
FEMA has mapped inundation flood hazard areas. The State of Vermont has mapped areas along smaller streams and river corridors where erosion is a greater risk.
Visit the Vermont Natural Resources Atlas to see the most current maps for your location.
Public damage costs can be reimbursed by FEMA at 75% of total approved costs. The state contributes a percentage of the remaining 25% of total costs on a tiered scale: 7.5%, 12.5%, or 17.5% reimbursement. The town is on the hook for the rest of the total costs (another reason why it’s bad to develop flood-prone areas).
Get the maximum State contribution by ensuring ERAF compliance. Check your town’s ERAF rate and which actions are complete at the Flood Ready Vermont website or contact Steffanie to get started.
The focus of the program is to reduce the impacts of flooding on private and public structures through local community adoption of a minimum set of local land use regulations in FEMA-mapped floodplains. The NFIP is referred to as a “three-legged stool”, meaning there are three parts that help support the program – Flood Insurance, Floodplain Development Regulations, and Floodplain Maps.
Private flood insurance does not exist. The NFIP is managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Federal Insurance Agency (FIA).
The NFIP makes federally-backed flood insurance available to all citizens in that community-- whether they are a renter or a property owner-- after a community voluntarily joins the program. For more information about flood insurance, please visit FloodSmart.gov.
When joining the NFIP, a community agrees to, at a minimum, regulate land development located in the FEMA-mapped floodplain, known as the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA). This minimum set of regulations is intended to protect new structures and help to mitigate existing structures in the floodplain. It is not a program designed to protect water quality and floodplain functions.
FEMA provides floodplain maps, called Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) to help identify high-risk floodplains in a community. To find out more about the FEMA FIRMs or to find a copy of your community’s most recent FIRM, please visit the FEMA Map Service Center or the VT ANR Natural Resource Atlas.
The authority to mandate an evacuation does not exist on a state or federal level, but towns should still have a plan in place if municipal or other authorities recommend evacuation.
Planning efforts should focus on likely major evacuation causes and geographic areas, such as flooding in the floodplain, as an obvious example, or a chemical spill along a major travel route.
Build a plan around the top probable cause(s) by identifying probable evacuation areas, routes, resources, and tactical operations. This information must be kept up to date and available to emergency services personnel—better yet, work with your local emergency services personnel to develop the plan.
Special consideration should be given to schools and day care centers, hospitals and nursing homes, resorts and visitor populations, individuals in the community with physical, mental or medical care needs who may require assistance before, during, and/or after a disaster or emergency. Special needs populations may also include economically or culturally isolated populations within the community. Talk to leaders from each population of concern; find out about their plans and their needs in advance.
Vermont Emergency Management developed a template for municipalities to use. Download it from their website to get started. Call us if you would like additional support with evacuation planning in your community.