The Town of East Montpelier Planning Commission, with technical assistance from the Central Vermont Regional Planning Commission and funding from a 2014 grant through the Municipal Planning Grant Program as administered by the Vermont Department of Housing and Community Development, is pleased to provide the following information on flood hazards, flood hazard regulations, and the science underlying this whole area of concern.
May 7, 2015 East Montpelier Planning Commission Public Hearing on Proposed Amendments to the East Montpelier Land Use & Development Regulations (LUDR).
A significant element of the proposed amendments was a comprehensive revision to the town’s flood hazard regulations, which are found in LUDR Article 9.
Former Regulations (replaced as of November 30, 2015):
Proposed Regulations (Adopted November 30, 2015):
September 18, 2014 Public Forum on Flood Hazard Area Regulations
The Planning Commission held a Public Forum on September 18, 2014 to discuss proposed changes to our Flood Hazard Area Regulations
In response to costly flood damage over the past several years, the state Legislature recently passed a law offering increased disaster relief funding to towns that adopt new and more restrictive land use regulations in flood plains and river corridors. The East Montpelier Planning Commission has been studying how our current Flood Hazard Area Regulations (Article 9 of the town’s Land Use & Development Regulations) would need to be revised to take advantage of these incentives and to decrease the likelihood of flood damage in the community. The Planning Commission, with assistance from the Central Vermont Regional Planning Commission, has drafted changes to the Flood Hazard Area Regulations. An informational public forum on flood hazards and the proposed revisions to the Flood Hazard Area Regulations will be held on September 18th at 7:00 pm at the Emergency Services Facility Public Room (Fire Department). All residents are welcome.
Click here to view Part 1 of the presentation from the Sept. 18 Public Forum: Local Flood Hazards in East Montpelier
Click here to view Part 2 of the presentation from the Sept. 18 Public Forum: Actions Proposed by the Planning Commission
For more on the need for these updated flood hazard area regulations, including river corridor protection, please see the information below:
On this page:
- Improve East Montpelier’s Flood Hazard Regulations**
- Adopt River Corridor Maps and Regulations**
- Qualify for Increased Disaster Assistance Funds
Click on the image below to download a copy of the East Montpelier Local Flood Hazards Brochure
Flood Hazards in East Montpelier
Flooding is the most serious potential natural disaster in the Town of East Montpelier. Situated in the Winooski River Valley, approximately 5.5% of East Montpelier’s land area and a little over 19.7% of properties in town are totally or partially located within designated flood hazard areas. Living along the river valleys unfortunately has flood risks that may be hazardous to life and property. East Montpelier’s commercial and historic core – East Montpelier Village – sits along the banks of the Winooski River, and is particularly vulnerable to economic loss during flooding events.
Major flood producing storms have affected the Town in the past 100 years. More recently, the Town’s infrastructure incurred $275,000 worth of damage during the May 2011 event and roads and bridges again took a hit during Tropical Storm Irene. Extreme weather and heavy rain events are expected by climatologists to pose recurring challenges.
Types of Flooding That Impact East Montpelier
There are two types of flooding impacts:
- Inundation where water rises into low lying land along the river
- Fluvial erosion, where moving water wears away the river channel bed and banks. In some cases, a river can jump its bank and rip through an area, taking with it whatever is in its path.
While some flood losses are caused by inundation, most flood losses in Vermont are caused by fluvial erosion. Fluvial erosion can range from gradual bank erosion to catastrophic changes in river channel location and size during flood events. More information >>
Dam failures are also a potential hazard in East Montpelier and can cause inundation or erosion flooding.
Actions a Community Can Take to Prevent Flood Loss
The Town is proposing the following actions to improve our community’s resilience to flooding:
Improve East Montpelier’s Flood Hazard Regulations. Recent major flood events have underscored the importance of supplementing the Town’s existing regulatory standards. East Montpelier has participated in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and regulated development in the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) since 1974. The SFHA is delineated on FEMA’s Flood Insurance Rate Maps and is defined as the area inundated by the 100-yr flood event, the event that has a 1% probability of occurring in any given year.Limiting development within the SFHA will reduce costly flood losses and increase public safety.
Adopt River Corridor Maps and Regulations.While participation in the NFIP is one important approach to flood hazard mitigation, NFIP maps are based only on inundation hazards, and fail to address erosion hazards, the cause of most flood damage in Vermont.
Rivers are dynamic systems that naturally move within a corridor over time. While rivers naturally erode slowly, many of the human-caused alterations of our waterways during the past 150-200 years have contributed to Vermont’s erosion hazard problem. Development that obstructs natural erosion at one location can significantly increase erosion downstream. The River Corridor maps produced by the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) define boundaries to the area the river needs to maintain a stable stream channel. The River Corridor area boundaries also attempt to capture the lands most vulnerable to erosion hazards.
ANR is producing River Corridor maps for East Montpelier based on quality-assured and field-tested data that describe the physical form and process of the river system. In East Montpelier, the River Corridor maps include the Winooski River and Kingsbury Branch and portions of Long Meadow Brook, Mallory Brook, Sodom Pond Brook and Muddy Brook. For streams not mapped by ANR, the regulations will apply to the area within 50 feet from the stream bank. Limiting encroachment into the River Corridor will prevent development that would increase overall erosion hazards and hinder a river’s natural tendency to adjust toward a more stable condition.
The following is a brief summary of regulatory land use restrictions and standards within the River Corridor:
- New structures, storage or junk yards, new fill (except as necessary to elevate structures above the base flood elevation) and critical facilities are prohibited.
- A Conditional Use permit is required for improvements to existing primary structures that do not expand the footprint of the existing structure more than 500 sq ft, accessory structures of 500 sq ft or less (that represent a minimal investment), building utilities and at-grade parking for existing buildings.
- Improvements to existing primary structures and/or construction of small accessory structures shall not decrease the distance between the existing primary building and the top of the stream bank.
- A determination in consultation with the River Management Program of the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) that development shall not increase the susceptibility of that or other properties to fluvial erosion damage or increase the potential of materials being swept into the stream.
A variance for development within the River Corridors may be allowed if, based on a review by VT ANR, it is determined that the proposed development will not obstruct the stream’s ability to establish and maintain a stable condition. Stream equilibrium refers to a balance of a river’s interactions with the elements of its watershed and landscape setting that naturally maintains the stream channel in its form that is most efficient and least likely to erode.
Qualify for Increased Disaster Assistance Funds. Adopting River Corridor regulations is an action that will position the Town to receive the highest possible state contribution of 17.5% of total disaster project costs. The Vermont Emergency Relief and Assistance Fund (ERAF) provides State funding to match Federal Public Assistance after federally-declared disasters. Eligible public costs are reimbursed by FEMA at 75%. For disasters after October 23, 2014, the State of Vermont will contribute 7.5% toward the local cost share. For communities that take specific steps to reduce flood damage the State will contribute 12.5% or 17.5% of the total cost.
Actions the Town has Already Taken. The Town has already taken a number of other important steps to reduce flood impacts, many of which help achieve the current 12.5% state cost share for East Montpelier. These include:
- Identification of flood hazards and mitigation strategies in the 2013 Town Plan
- Regular Bridge and Culvert assessment and maintenance programs
- Adoption of a FEMA-Approved Local Hazard Mitigation Plan (2011)
- Adoption of a Local Emergency Operations Plan (annual)
Cost Savings from the Emergency Relief and Assistance Fund
An additional incentive for adoption of River Corridor regulations is to position the Town for improved financial assistance from the State in the event of future federally-declared disaster events pursuant to the new Emergency Relief and Assistance Fund (ERAF) rule.
ERAF provides State funding to match Federal Public Assistance after federally-declared disasters. Eligible public costs are reimbursed by federal taxpayers at 75%. For disasters after October 23, 2014, the State of Vermont will contribute an additional 7.5% toward the costs (see letter from VT Secretary of Administration, Jeb Spaulding). For communities that take specific steps to reduce flood damage the State will contribute 12.5% or 17.5% of the total cost.
The Town has already taken a number of other important steps to reduce flood impacts, many of which help achieve the current 12.5% state cost share for East Montpelier. Preventing encroachment into the River Corridor by adopting regulations in addition to the above will position the Town to receive the highest possible state contribution of 17.5% of total project costs. For an example of what these savings could amount to, the nearby community of Moretown received $1,931,323 in FEMA Public Assistance funding post-Tropical Storm Irene for damaged public infrastructure (See VPR’s Mapping the Money, FEMA Irene Relief).
These federal dollars required a $643,744 local match (25%). Under the new ERAF rule, if the same level of damage were to occur in East Montpelier during the next flood event, the Town would only have to pay $193,100 (7.5%) towards project costs if River Corridor regulations have been adopted and the state contributed 17.5%. Without the River Corridor regulations, the Town would pay $321,900. In a disaster causing damage of equal magnitude, the savings to the Town and local taxpayers would be $128,800.
Actions Property Owners & Residents Can Take to Prevent Flood Loss
Flood Insurance. If you do not have flood insurance, talk to your insurance agent. Flood damages often occur outside the limits of the regulatory floodplain. More information >> In Vermont, two-thirds of flood damages occur outside of federally mapped flood areas (VT ANR).
Fact: A structure in a flood hazard area has a 26% chance of flood loss over a 30-year period, the life of a typical mortgage (FEMA).
Flood insurance policies do cover damage from flood-related erosion and purchase of flood insurance is highly recommended for structures located in the River Corridor. Moreover, flood insurance premiums for areas outside of the FEMA high risk flood zone are substantially lower.
Other Property Protection Measures. The following measures may reduce damage to flood-susceptible properties:
- Grade your yard for proper drainage. Seal and protect water entry points. Use watertight seals and flood-resistant building materials.
- Elevate or anchor fuel tanks and outbuildings. Install a floor drain plug, standpipe, overhead sewer, or sewer backup valve to prevent backup flooding.
- Elevate utilities such as heating and air conditioning systems, water heaters, washers/dryers, and other major appliances to higher floors or on raised platforms.
- Temporarily move furniture, electronics, and other valuables to higher floors; sandbag exterior openings.
- To avoid repetitive losses, consider elevating or relocating the entire structure.
Flood Warnings and Flood Safety
The Town of East Montpelier does not have a local flood warning system in place. Some floods resulting from heavy rains upstream may be predictable in advance and enable residents to prepare or evacuate. However, flash floods resulting from heavy local rains and runoff aren’t as predictable.
The Town encourages its residents to listen to local news radio and television stations for flood warnings and prepare accordingly. It is also encouraged that residents sign up for Vermont Alert (www.vtalert.gov). VT Alert is a free statewide service that allows the public to sign up and receive localized emergency notifications through a number of delivery systems, including text, e-mail, telephone, or even a game console.
Always cooperate with emergency officials and rescue personnel and be sure to follow these important flood safety rules to reduce risks during a flood:
- Don’t drive through a flooded area. More people drown in cars than anywhere else. The water depth and road condition are always unknown. Vehicles can be swept away in only 18 to 24 inches of water.
- Don’t walk through floodwaters. Flood currents are also deceptive. Adults can be swept off their feet in only 6 inches of water.
- Avoid electrical lines and equipment. Electrocution is the second leading cause of death during floods. Turn off power at your service panel. Electrical current will travel through flood water.
- Be alert to gas leaks. Turn off gas to your house before a flood. If you smell gas, report it to your gas company and avoid open flames.
- Don’t use gas engines or fires indoors during power outages. These pose risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and house fires.
- Clean anything that has been wet. Flood water will be contaminated with sewage, oil, gasoline, and a variety of chemicals that pose severe health risks.
Natural & Beneficial Functions of Floodplains
Watercourses and floodplains that are relatively undisturbed limit stormwater and flood damage, improve water quality, reduce soil erosion, protect habitats, and provide aesthetic and recreational benefits. Natural features such as wetlands and river bank forests can be used to help absorb floodwaters and reduce flooding. The Town of East Montpelier’s zoning and flood protection standards have been crafted to protect and preserve these natural areas.
For More Information
- Additional resources are available at eastmontpeliervt.org. Local Flood Hazard Area maps can be viewed at the municipal building.
- Visit the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources River Management Program’s FloodReady web site at www.floodready.vt.gov to find materials relating to the National Flood Insurance Program and River Corridor programs. You can also contact ANR’s Central Vermont Floodplain Manager or River Scientists, to whom you can direct inquiries.
- Contact the Central Vermont Regional Planning Commission at 802-229-0389 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on local flood hazards or FEMA grants available to property owners to reduce flood vulnerabilities.