Wednesday, April 17, 2013

New Report: Lake Champlain Basin Flood Resilience

Lake Champlain FloodingThe Lake Champlain Basin Program (LCBP) has released a new report, Flood Resilience in the Lake Champlain Basin and Upper Richelieu River. The report presents results of an LCBP flood conference held in 2012 at the request of Vermont Governor Shumlin and Quebec’s (former) Premier Charest, following the spring 2011 flooding of Lake Champlain and the Richelieu River Valley. The report provides a review of the 2011 flooding impacts and includes specific recommendations to help inform flood resilience policies and management strategies to reduce the impact of major floods anticipated in the future.

In addition to hosting technical workshops in Quebec and New York, the LCBP hosted a two-day conference in Vermont in 2012 to help inform this report. The document includes a summary of both 2011 flood events, and the impacts to humans, community infrastructure, and the Lake Champlain ecosystem. The report also outlines policy recommendations for the three jurisdictions to consider for increasing our resilience to future flood events in the region.

“Many of the recommendations serve the dual purpose of protecting life and property along tributary corridors, the Richelieu River and Lake Champlain’s shoreline, and also limiting environmental damage from future floods,” said Bill Howland, LCBP Program Manager. “With help from many federal, state and provincial partners, we have developed 15 policy recommendations and identified critical information data gaps for the jurisdictions to consider.”

The report stresses that identifying, restoring, and protecting existing floodplains, whether they are adjacent to Lake Champlain or its tributaries, are important steps to help lessen flood damage in the future.  By ensuring that tributary river flood waters can flow unimpeded into floodplains in the watershed, a lower volume of stormwater, sediments and nutrients will be delivered to Lake Champlain in times of flood.

A detailed description of the 15 recommendations is included in the full report, including:

  • Identify Fluvial Erosion Hazard areas: This is considered a critical step for predicting locations most susceptible to the next big flood event and for implementing best management practices at the local and regional levels to reduce these risks.
  • Establish Consistent Floodplain Development Standards: This recommendation reflects what the LCBP sees as the need to further protect areas being developed within and adjacent to the 100 year flood zone. Although National Flood Insurance Program Guidelines are designed to reduce the costs of repairing flood damage to insured structures within the 100 year flood zone, they are not robust enough to protect floodplains from further encroachment in these critical zones, particularly along tributaries in the upper elevations with highly erodible soils. The cost of the recent floods is evidence that the national standards are inadequate.
  • Identify and promote economic benefits of improved flood resilience: This action is expected to examine the full economic impact of lake and tributary flooding to the region’s economy in 2011, and characterize the potential future economic benefits of protected accessible floodplains, such as those within the Otter Creek system that stored the floodwaters and likely saved Middlebury from a significant stormwater surge downstream after Tropical Storm Irene.

Flood Resilience in the Lake Champlain Basin and Upper Richelieu River is available on the LCBP website (in English and French) at


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