(Host) Vegetable farms around the state could be threatened by the state’s strict interpretation of floodplain regulations.
That’s according to experts hired by the Intervale Center in Burlington. The center is fighting the state over whether farm buildings are allowed in the floodway of the Winooski River.
The Intervale is home to a regional composting center and a dozen small farms. But the state has warned that Burlington could lose its federal flood insurance because the Intervale has allowed the construction of numerous farm buildings inside the 100-year flood zone.
Now one of the farms at the Intervale has asked for state permission to build a "hoop house" – that’s an open-sided structure used to raise plants.
Brian Dunkiel is the lawyer for the Intervale Center and Half-Pint Farm. He says the hoop house ought to be permitted.
(Dunkiel) “They’re essentially pass-through structures that affect water flow in a flood similar to a fence that is allowed in these floodways.”
(Host) Dunkiel’s petition to the state includes testimony from Vermont’s leading expert on vegetable farms.
The expert is University of Vermont professor Vern Grubinger. He said growers often plant crops in floodways, because that’s where the fertile soil lies.
Dunkiel said the state should be careful about banning the structures.
(Dunkiel) “There’s an estimate that if applied statewide it could potentially affect 200 existing hoop houses in floodways. And the expert statements state that the use and importance of hoop houses by vegetable farmers statewide is growing – and growing fast."
(Host) A lawyer for the state said the Agency of Agriculture will examine the statewide implications of its decision on the Intervale.