One of the most lasting impacts of flood recovery has been the vast number and scope of alterations made to our rivers and streams without the benefit of the Division’s river engineering expertise. Until now, the Watershed Management Division (WSMD) Rivers Program did not have clear authority to oversee emergency measures initiated during and after a disaster. Consequently, recovery actions have too often created unstable stream conditions, future risks and vulnerability, and negative environmental impacts that the municipalities, Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) and the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) have had an on-going struggle to identify and correct.
New Stream Alteration Rules will take effect on December 24, 2013, which specifically addresses this need. The WSMD Rivers Program has crafted first-in-the-nation regulations based on the science of stream geomorphology. They require activities to be evaluated based on the impact to stream equilibrium conditions, or the least erosive form to which a stream may evolve.
Municipalities carrying out emergency measures will now have clear reporting requirements and the Rivers Program has a well-defined process for authorizing stream activities during and after an emergency. More training and outreach will be needed to fully realize the benefits of these rules, but everyone should have better tools for communicating and taking the necessary actions to save lives and property without creating future threats.
The full Rules are available on the main Rivers Program webpage: http://www.watershedmanagement.vt.gov/rivers.htm