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After Irene: VPR Reports on VJEL Symposium

April 25, 2012

Tropical Storm Irene may be past, but its impact on Vermont continues to reverberate as government officials, property owners, conversationists, anglers and others look for better ways to manage rivers and floodwaters in the Green Mountain state.

Image of Irene bridgeVermont Public Radio reported on a recent symposium, titled "After Irene: Law and Policy Lessons for the Future," that was hosted by the Vermont Journal of Environmental Law, a student-run online journal at Vermont Law School.

"Vermont rivers program manager Michael Kline says Irene represents a turning point in how the state and communities approach rivers," VPR reported. "Even so, Kline says 40 percent of the river repairs done after Irene actually increased the danger from flooding. Kline says only recently have officials begun questioning the decades long practice of dredging, widening and straightening rivers after floods. Following Irene, Kline says the state river engineers are working with towns to take a new approach to managing rivers to better prepare for future floods.

"'We are beginning to look at our flood response differently so that instead of creating the fire hose effect out of our rivers, we can find out where they can dissipate some of that flood flow, where they can expend some of that flood energy,' he says.

"The key to that is protecting floodplains and the idea of giving rivers the room they need to overflow. Kline says Vermont's rivers can no longer access 75 percent of the floodplain that borders them. That's largely because of development and the way rivers have been altered. Better local planning can protect existing floodplains and mitigation programs could help clear out developed areas."

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