Vermont Clean Water Initiative
The Vermont Clean Water Act, Act 64, passed the Vermont Legislature in 2015. The goal of this act is improve the quality of Vermont's waters and to implement the plan for a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) of phosphorous loading into Lake Champlain. Resources in the form of state staffing, funding and educational outreach have been dedicated to this work. Regional Planning Commissions also have received funding to work on water quality planning and outreach. These collective activities are now referred to as the Vermont Clean Water Initiative.
This web page will be used to let our communities know about outreach, education, and assistance associated with this work over the coming years. For more information, visit the VT Department of Environmental Conservation's new website, http://cleanwater.vermont.gov/.
Fluvial erosion damage to US Route 4 in Mendon
Fluvial Erosion Hazards
Fluvial erosion is the destruction of river banks caused by the movement of rivers and streams. In Vermont, most flood damage is caused by fluvial erosion.
A stable, balanced river is one that is just wide enough, deep enough, and long enough to move the amount of water and gravel produced in its watershed. A stable stream will erode its banks and change course only minimally, even in flood situations. However, if a river becomes unstable, then it will change course, slope, depth, and/or width until it becomes balanced again. An important way to keep rivers from becoming unbalanced, or to allow them to re-establish stability, is to protect their river corridors. River corridors consist of the river channel, the banks on either side, and the areas close to the river that carry flood water and accommodate the meander pattern of the river.
What is the problem?
River degradation is among the most difficult natural resource issues facing Vermont.
Traditional land use patterns, river management, and flood recovery efforts have led to the straight jacketing, steepening and down cutting of our rivers and streams. In an effort to keep Vermont’s rivers static in the landscape, we have created an unsustainable condition that leads to erosion hazards and flood losses.
Flooding is the most frequent, damaging and costly natural hazard in Vermont. Over the last 50 years, flooding has cost an average of $14 million a year to Vermonters.
How does the problem develop?
Pervasive stream channel instability and water quality degradation profoundly diminish the ecological and economic potential of riparian lands, river systems and receiving waters for Vermont’s communities.
The stream adjustments that occur in response to disturbance are a predictable process that often results in conflicts with human investments along riparian corridors, such as transportation infrastructure, agricultural lands, and residential and commercial properties. As these conflicts build, traditional channel management activities often contribute to a cycle of ever-increasing conflict, channel instability and cost. Similarly, existing floodplain management mechanisms, while important, deal primarily with preventing inundation and do not adequately address other activities that may directly or indirectly lead to greater channel instability and an increased magnitude of sediment and phosphorus discharges.
There is a difference, however, between local and systematic river instability.
Mitigation and planning
The most cost-effective way to mitigate flood hazards is avoidance. Town planning and zoning can play a central role in mitigating flood and erosion hazards trough avoidance.
There are many planning avenues that support river corridor protection such as municipal and regional plans, pre-disaster mitigation plans and river corridor and basin plans. The Vermont Department of Conservation, Watershed Management Division, has developed programs focused on avoiding conflicts between human investments and river dynamics through incentives-based river corridor protection programs.
Why get involved?
Economic loss and public safety affects us all, in one way or another. While the Rutland Regional Planning Commission works to promote watershed programs and flood hazard mitigation in towns, each individual town has a role in preventing future losses by regulating development on streams and rivers. The objective at both the town and regional level is the same:
Reduce future direct economic losses and water quality degradation resulting from floods through river corridor protection
What are Fluvial Erosion Hazards Standards?
The Vermont River Management Program provides funding and technical assistance to facilitate an understanding of river instability and the establishment of well-developed projects and strategies to restore the river’s equilibrium. Gathering stream geomorphic assessment data is the first step in distinguishing between local and systematic river instability.
Fluvial Erosion Hazards (FEH) Standards are a system for prioritizing and mapping potential flood hazards. Erosion hazard zones are derived by the Department of Environmental Conservation through stream geomorphic assessments, mapped as part of the FEMA flood hazard program, and adopted through municipal plans and zoning ordinances pursuant to 24 V.S.A. §4424.
Water Wise - The stormwater website for Rutland Town, VT
Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, River Management Section
Fluvial Erosion Hazard Guide for Municipalities [0.9 MB PDF]
Living in Harmony with Streams: A Citizens Handbook to How Streams Work [2.3 MB PDF]
Flood Ready Vermont
Clean Water Vermont
Rutland Region Contact
River Scientist, Watershed Management Division
Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation
Office: Rutland (802) 490.6158
Fluvial erosion in Killington
Photographs courtesy of Lars Gange & Mansfield Heliflight