Flood Resiliency

Flood Tool Kit

River CorridorThe significant damage caused by Tropical Storm Irene and other unnamed heavy rain events in the summers of 2013 and 2014 demonstrate the potentially severe impacts of flooding in our region. In reaction to the devastating effects of Tropical Storm Irene in Vermont, the State Legislature passed Act 16 (H.401) in 2013 in order to promote planning for flood resilience. Act 16 includes a new required element for town and regional plans and includes a new state planning goal to encourage flood resilient communities. In order to help meet the needs of SWCRPC member towns in addressing this new requirement, SWCRPC staff has compiled a planning toolbox which may be utilized to help towns to promote flood resilience and address Act 16.

Town Plan Resiliency Elements
Following the passage of Act 16, a town plan must be consistent with state planning goals in order to be approved by the SWCRPC in accordance with 24 V.S.A. §4350, including the new goal:

24 V.S.A. §4302(14) To encourage flood resilient communities.

(A) New development in identified flood hazard, fluvial erosion, and river corridor protection areas should be avoided. If new development is to be built in such areas, it should not exacerbate flooding and fluvial erosion.

(B) The protection and restoration of floodplains and upland forested areas that attenuate and moderate flooding and fluvial erosion should be encouraged.

(C) Flood emergency preparedness and response planning should be encouraged.

Flood resiliency is now a required element for both regional and town plans, which must:

  • Identify flood hazard and fluvial erosion hazard areas, including:
  • Floodways and floodplains (Special Flood Hazard Areas and Local Flood Hazard Areas);
  • River corridors as mapped by VT ANR;
  • Shoreland areas;
  • Wetlands;
  • Upland forests;
  • Information from available stream geomorphic assessments;
  • Designate those areas to be protected in order to reduce the risk of flood damage to infrastructure and improved property, and
  • Recommend policies and strategies to protect these areas identified above and to mitigate flood and erosion risks.
What is a ‘River Corridor’?
Buffer component“River corridor” means the land area adjacent to a river that is required to accommodate the dimensions, slope, planform, and buffer of the naturally stable channel and that is necessary for the natural maintenance or natural restoration of a dynamic equilibrium condition and for minimization of fluvial erosion hazards, as delineated by the agency of natural resources in accordance with river corridor protection procedures.

“River corridor protection area” means the area within a delineated river corridor subject to fluvial erosion that may occur as a river establishes and maintains the dimension, pattern, and profile associated with its dynamic equilibrium condition and that would represent a hazard to life, property, and infrastructure placed within the area.

Flood Resilience Tools
The following tools are now available to help address this new requirement:

  • The Department of Housing and Community Development’s website includes links to a number of different resources that can assist in this effort. See the Plan Today for Tomorrow’s Flood section of their website;
  • Vermont leaders have a new online tool to help their communities become more flood resilient:Flood Ready Vermont;
  • Type in “http://floodready.vermont.gov/” in the browser to access this website;
  • Related mapping data can be found at either FEMA’s Map Service Center or ANR’s Natural Resource Atlas. SWCRPC staff can assist in finding the most current data to map flood and erosion hazard zones;
  • S. Climate Resilience Toolkit – “toolkit.climate.gov” The Climate Resilience Toolkit provides resources and a framework for understanding and addressing the climate issues that impact people and their communities;
  • S. EPA – “Flood Resilience: A Basic Guide for Water and Wastewater Utilities”
  • Publication, 2013 guidance document for local flood resilience – Disaster Recovery and Long-Term Resilience Planning in Vermont
  • Vermont Flood Resiliency Checklist
  • Town Plan examples (Reading, Windsor, Weathersfield, Duxbury)
  • Town Plan checklist for Flood Resilience Element (SWCRPC);
  • Implementation Matrix for Strategies to Mitigate Flood Risk (SWCRPC); and
  • Flood Hazard Summary Report.
Recommendations to achieve flood resiliency
A list of possible recommendations to achieve greater flood resiliency, based on some of the resources cited include:

  • Restore floodplains through the removal of berms and levees
  • Buyout flood-prone structures
  • Conserve land and wetlands that serve as important floodplain storage areas or are prone to flooding and/or erosion
  • Amend land use bylaws to control development along rivers and floodplains
  • Mitigate risks for village areas by:
  • Make strategic infrastructure investments (e.g. storm drainage upgrades, dams, dikes, etc.)
  • Avoid building new critical facilities sited in flood or erosion hazard zones
  • Flood-proof existing buildings within flood hazard zones
  • Prevent the storage of valuables in flood-prone areas (e.g. town archives, library collections, etc.)
  • When planning for a new development, identify suitable locations outside of areas with higher levels of flood and erosion risk.
  • Improve stormwater management to retain water onsite and prevent runoff to reduce downstream flooding
  • Avoid development and maintain forest cover on steep slopes (25% and greater)
  • Manage runoff from steep roads and driveways
  • Adopt current road and culvert standards to accommodate the bank full flow of streams
  • Maximize onsite stormwater infiltration to help recharge aquifers and limit the potential for severe flooding
  • Update local All-Hazard Mitigation Plans
  • Develop or update a Capital Budget and Program to finance priority mitigation strategies for municipal infrastructure and facilities
More Resiliency Resources – including videos and factsheets
The Connecticut River Watershed Council (CRWC) has released six short videos to help communities prepare for flooding.   These videos are featured on Flood Ready Vermont and compiled on the CRWC Preparing for Floods page.

The videos highlight steps that communities can take to reduce exposure to damage from flooding. 

Finding the Right Mix – How the Town of Brandon is taking comprehensive steps to reduce damage from flooding.

Homeowner Buyouts and Elevating Homes – How community leaders are using FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grants to reduce residential losses.

Why Rivers Move and Erode – a demonstration of how channels move over time using a stream table.

Stabilizing Stream Banks Naturally – placing root wads to support the reestablishment of bank vegetation and reduce erosion rates.

Adapting to Climate Change: Dams and Flooding – A dam removal project in West Windsor in 2017 aimed to reduce flood risk.