Right on the heels of adopting a new Municipal Plan in 2016, the Pawlet Planning Commission got to work on strengthening river corridor protection for the town. As stated in the plan, the town was committed to updating river corridor delineations and enhancing floodplain regulations. Even though Pawlet had previously approved a fluvial erosion hazard area overlay in 2013, it was before VT ANR updated its maps and included a 50-foot setback on unmapped small streams (those with a watershed of less than two square miles). In early 2017, the town approved new bylaws that included the state’s revised river corridor mapping as well as regulations that limit development within river corridors and extend the setback on small streams to 100 feet.
Like many Vermont villages built alongside rivers and tributaries, Pawlet has a history of flooding, some of it very costly. Flooding from Tropical Storm Irene alone caused more than $318,000 in flood-related damage. There are 30 structures in the town’s Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) and three critical public structures are in the SHFA or the 0.2% flood hazard area: the Town Hall, the Firehouse and a Vermont Telephone Company structure. By taking the added step of updating its river corridor protection, the town is clearly dedicated to doing what it can to minimize future flooding, restore natural river dynamics,and as part of the South Lake Champlain Watershed, to help restore the health of the lake. Work on the new river corridor bylaws was coordinated by the Rutland Regional Planning Commission with assistance and funding support from the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) as part of a partnership to coordinate Vermont Clean Water Act outreach and to support basin planning.