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The Commons
Voices / Letters from readers

Individuals can help make area more flood-resistant

The writers are members of the Living Earth Action Group, which meets every Friday at 5 p.m. at the Congregational Church of Westminster West. For more information, contact Caitlin Adair at or 802-387-5779.

Originally published in The Commons issue #425 (Wednesday, September 13, 2017). This story appeared on page E2.

What can we do, as individuals, to turn all the rain that a big storm brings into an asset rather than a disaster?

After Tropical Storm Irene, towns in Vermont were mandated to come up with plans to deal with flood waters. Sadly, they have been very slow in doing so, but there are many ways they can.

One way is to have places where floodwaters can be caught. The Vermont Land Trust put protections in place on Bull Creek in Rockingham so floodwaters can make use of floodplain and for good management of the floodplain.

Bull Creek flows into the Saxtons River. Vermont River Conservancy worked with Wild Shepherd Farm in Athens to create a river corridor management area along the Saxtons River. This is one of many methods our towns should be looking into. As citizens, we should demand that they do so.

Pavement usually prevents rain from soaking into the ground, causing runoff and flooding. The good news is that a new kind of paving material, permeable pavement, allows rain to go right through it. This new material, approved for use in our climate, looks like blacktop, but spaces between the rocks allow water to drain out.

You can look at your property or backyard and see what you might do to stop or slow the flow of water into nearby rivers. A few sandbags placed along a natural pathway for water runoff could prevent erosion and slow flooding. A more permanent solution might include building earth berms in these places or directing roof or driveway runoff into a rain garden.

If your land borders a stream, make sure to keep vegetation (small bushes and trees) growing along the stream bank to prevent erosion, slow the passage of debris, and to take up water when the area is flooded.

If you live on a dirt road (especially one that regularly or occasionally washes out) or visit trails or class-four roads in the woods, take a close look at the drainage options. Is there a flat area where, with a little work, stormwater could be better channeled to soak into the ground, diverting it from a flow to one of the small streams or tributaries that will swell during heavy rains or flooding conditions?

If we all take notice of these problem areas and work toward making drainage improvements, there will be much less erosion, flooding, and maintenance/expense for the town road crew.

Finally, beaver dams and beaver ponds also help rainwater to stay where it falls, soak in slowly, and restore aquifers. Beavers are the original wetlands engineers. Let’s support their work for the benefit of all.

Caitlin Adair

Westminster West

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