Vermont and federal officials Monday highlighted the state’s ongoing efforts to prepare for what is expected to be increasingly severe weather, most likely floods, in the coming years as the effects of a warming world continue to be felt.
They released two reports addressing the aftermath of 2011 flooding caused by Tropical Storm Irene and lesser storms that year and since then.
The reports recommend the state make changes to lessen future damage, including changing the way roads and bridges are built and maintained, and keeping development out of flood plains.
George Hamilton, president of the Montpelier-based Institute for Sustainable Communities, said the climate in Vermont is now comparable to that of Virginia in the 1960s. The institute prepared one of the reports.
“Our growing season has changed. We are already seeing the effects of climate change. So we have to act,” Hamilton said.
He and other officials spoke at a news conference at the state’s Emergency Operations Center. The view from one window featured rubble from the former state office complex, most of which Irene made unusable. The complex is being rebuilt to make it better able to withstand flooding in the future.
“All over the world there are increasingly intense weather events, and certainly we want to take every step we can to take a long view to how we can moderate those kinds of events,” said Administration Secretary Jeb Spaulding. “We need to take steps to position Vermont, both our people and landscape and our infrastructure, in a way that can handle the kinds of increasingly intense weather events that we are likely to be seeing.”
Other recommendations in the reports were:
• Implement a state river corridor and flood plain protection program;
• Create incentives for communities to regulate land use within flood plains;
• Improve flood resilience of agricultural lands;
• Develop training for state disaster assistance reservists.
The report, “Vermont’s Roadmap to Resilience,” was prepared by the institute and written after more than a year’s work meeting with people from agencies that responded to Irene. As evidence of increasingly severe weather patterns, the institute said that between 1958 and 2010 the amount of rain in what it described as “heavy precipitation events” has increased 74 percent.
The other report, “Vermont State Agency Policy Options, Disaster Recovery and Long-term Resilience Planning in Vermont,” was prepared by a U.S. Department of Homeland Security coastal hazards center with support from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.