Department of Housing & Community Development

Vermont Economic Resiliency Initiative

Vermont’s hard-won experience from flooding taught us many lessons – a key one was that no one individual, business, organization, town or state agency can reduce flood vulnerabilities alone. Fortunately, projects like Vermont Economic Resiliency Initiative (VERI) and other studies and related initiatives deepened partnerships and identified new opportunities that have helped communities, the state, and its regional and non-profit partners develop and advance an integrated, long-term strategy of policies, programs and investments to:

  • protect people and property;
  • strengthen Vermont’s preparedness at a business, community and state level;
  • ensure a coordinated, fast and efficient response after a disaster;
  • reduce the repetitive repair costs to infrastructure that impact community, state and federal budgets; and
  • ensure businesses stay open and Vermont’s economy remains strong after an event.

Download the complete report here.

Project Overview
 

The project identified Vermont’s top 32 communities where economic activity and associated infrastructure are at high risk of flooding. 

Based on this state-wide ranking, input from economic development experts, and other selection criteria, the communities of Barre City and Town, Brandon, Brattleboro, Enosburg Village and Town, and Woodstock were chosen to receive technical assistance to help them identify projects that reduce, avoid or minimize these risks and ensure local businesses quickly bounce back from floods.

VERI is modeled after a successful project in Bennington that identified and implemented projects that minimized business interruption and substantially reduced flood recovery costs from Tropical Storm Irene.  Building on that project’s success, VERI analyzed local rivers and regulations in five communities and identified specific projects and policy changes to speed flood and business recovery. 

In each community, the VERI team presented policy changes and projects to reduce local risks and economic costs due to flooding. 

The team then used the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) flood resiliency checklist that was developed from a study in the Mad River Valley in Vermont. This checklist includes overall strategies to improve flood resilience as well as specific strategies to conserve land and discourage development in river corridors; to protect people, businesses, and facilities in vulnerable settlements; to direct development to safer areas; and to implement and coordinate stormwater management practices throughout the whole watershed. The team identified and ranked projects to protect businesses and infrastructure in each community based on the collected field data collection, the review of flood history and stakeholder input. 

The priority of each policy changes and projects were based on the project’s effectiveness in addressing each of the following three objectives:

  1. Reduces flood risk (proposed project lowers the flood level)
  2. Reduces erosion risk (proposed project lessens the vulnerability to erosion)
  3. Protects businesses, infrastructure, and property.

Using community input and the team’s professional judgment of the top priority projects, two conceptual design were developed for each community to help advance the project with potential funders. The community-specific recommendations and the conceptual designs are included in the community reports linked above.  

The team is currently working with the VERI communities and its partners to support implementation by helping:

  • Barre develop plans to buy out at risk housing along the Gunner’s Brook.
  • Brattleboro pursue a recommendation to protect a key parcel and increase its capacity to store flood water and debris and protect downtown business.
  • Brandon design an overflow culvert to protect the downtown municipal offices and business from floods and ensure State Route 7 is open for business
  • Enosburg implement projects with Hazard Mitigation grants.
  • Woodstock upgrade undersized culverts and bridges.

The VERI Project Report describes the work done in Vermont and is written to help other cities, towns, and states take steps to reduce and better manage their flood risks.

VERI was supported, in part, with funding from the US Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration. The project was led by the Agency of Commerce and Community Development, working with the Agencies of Natural Resources and Transportation, Regional Planning Commissions, and consulting river scientists. 

The report was prepared by the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development in partnership with the Two Rivers-Ottauquechee Regional Commission using Federal funds under award 01-79-14251 from the Economic Development Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce. The statements, findings, conclusions, and recommendations are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Development Administration or the U.S. Department of Commerce.
 

Chris Cochran, Community Planning & Revitalization Director
802-595-5410