A joint U.S.-Canadian study group says there is an urgent need to spend about $14 million to study floodplain planning and forecasting in the Lake Champlain basin.
Flooding of the lake and Richelieu River in 2011 caused tens of millions of dollars in damage in Vermont, New York and Quebec and prompted the International Joint Commission to study practical and affordable preventive measures.
Brian Chipman. a fisheries biologist with the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department, worked on the study. He says even prior to the flooding from Tropical Storm Irene, 2011 was one of the wettest years Vermont has seen.
“Both the magnitude and duration of the flooding in Spring 2011 was unprecedented. It went on for a very long time, and with peak water levels on Lake Champlain over a foot greater than the previous high flood levels,” says Chipman.
He says the purpose of the studies is to gather as much information as possible about flood patterns that may be developing.
“That’s really to evaluate the causes and impacts of past floods and use that information to develop best floodplain management practice,” Chipman says.
The studies are projected to take about five years and cost the U.S. and Canadian governments about $14 million.
“If funding isn’t made available, it would be difficult to go forward with any significant flood mitigation measures,” Chipman says.
Chipman says that due to climate change, there are some who believe that flood events like this will occur more frequently. He says going forward, attitudes about building may need to change.
“We really have to change the way we think about lakefront building in flood plains,” says Chipman.