Vermont

Grant Type: 2011 Regional Planning (category 1)

Grant Amount: $540,000

Lead Organization: Two Rivers- Ottauquechee Regional Commission

 

Grant Type:  2011 Regional Planning (category 2)

Grant Amount: $480,000

Lead Organization: Northwest Regional Planning Commission

 

Grant Type:  2010 Challenge Grant

Grant Amount: $147,878

Lead Organization: Upper Valley Lake Sunapee Regional Planning

ABOUT THE REGION

Vermont is a predominantly rural state of approximately 630,000 people. The state’s main industry in terms of GDP is manufacturing, but services is the largest employment section. The state enjoys a vibrant and growing local food economy. Two-Rivers Ottauquechee Regional Commission (TRORC) covers 30 towns in east-central Vermont, mostly in the White River valley. For their team, TRORC has reached out and partnered with two other HUD grant recipients: Northwest Regional Planning Commission (NRPC) and Upper Valley Lake Sunapee Regional Planning. NRPC covers Franklin and Grand Isle Counties in the northwest corner of Vermont, while the Upper Valley Lake Sunapee region includes the area of New Hampshire adjacent to TRORC.

TRORC was the lead agency on the just-completed East Central Vermont regional sustainability plan. The plan, What We Want, was developed in concert with many others, including the Southern Windsor County Regional Planning Commission, and covers the ten towns in their region as well. This plan has a climate resilience element that now needs implementation. The plan’s section on climate resilience is strongly linked to another section in the TRORC Regional Plan, which deals exclusively with flood resilience.

In 2011, much of Vermont – including the communities served by TROC – was impacted by devastating flooding caused by Tropical Storm Irene. Some parts of this very rural state are still recovering from the destruction. Flooding continues to be the most pressing regional climate issue; however summer heat, Lyme disease, and changes to the region’s biota are all either present or near-future  problems.

PROJECT SUMMARY AND GOALS

The Vermont team is designed to use partnerships at the regional and state level to create an effort that is big-   ger than individual local initiatives. Current and past efforts have focused on education and policy development. Education needs to continue on many fronts: to more clearly lay out the challenges posed by extreme weather and changes to our natural and built environment, to disperse doubts that these challenges are coming, and to disseminate best practice approaches to adaptation needs. Policy must be refined, and above all practices need   to be developed and implemented that are suited to Vermont’s largely rural environment.

THE CHALLENGES AHEAD

  • Taking action to preclude future floodplain development: better administer flood regulations, improve disaster response, strengthen the social recovery net, harden road systems and upgrade drainage struc- tures. Increase state mitigation and regional and local recovery
  • Motivating municipal leaders to take action. Climate change is reasonably well accepted in the region, but there is no urgency tied into many long-term plans. Towns are also reluctant to spend more on road sys- tems to stave off future disasters. There is often a failure to recognize that disaster recovery needs to be part of an overall resiliency effort and not just focused on “bouncing back,” but instead “bouncing forward” with smarter
  • Communicating risk and helping residents and political leaders to understand the future potential severity of climate
  • Increasing the resilience of our most vulnerable populations, including low income residents living in flood prone
  • Advancing adaptation solutions within the limited budgets and limited administrative capacity that is avail- able in small
  • Providing continuity in funding and support, as adaptation demand waxes and wanes with climate crises.

PROMISING PRACTICES OR INNOVATIONS

  • Following Tropical Storm Irene, TRORC has administered the statewide buyout of homes using Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery funds and has participated in buying out 108 of 140 homes to date. TRORC has also assisted on grants to elevate homes, relocate roads, inventory culverts and revise flood
  • The regional sustainability plan’s climate resilience section is a brief but comprehensive take on adapta- tion
  • Upper Valley Adaptation Workgroup has conducted well-attended workshops on climate change, health impacts, and disaster recovery and business
  • Vermont Natural Resources Council has developed a resilience scorecard to help communities identify their challenges and