Quebec, Vt. Call For Flood Task Force

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(Host) Political leaders in Vermont and Quebec are calling for the creation of an international task force to recommend ways to reduce flooding in Lake Champlain.

Governor Peter Shumlin says the effort is needed because there’s no question in his mind that climate change will bring more precipitation to the region in the coming years.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) The project is a collaboration between Governor Shumlin and Quebec Premier Jean Charest.   They’re asking the International Joint Commission to appoint a special task force to research ways to reduce flood damage near Lake Champlain and the Richelieu River.

They also plan to hold a conference in Burlington this fall to look at new scientific initiatives that are used in other parts of the country to control flood damage.

As a result of massive flooding this spring, the water level of Lake Champlain hit an all time high.  Shumlin noted that the level today is 8 feet below the new record set in late May.

(Shumlin) "The question is what can we learn? We know that while our efforts were extraordinary we had some environmental impacts that we would never want to see happen again. We had municipal sewage systems that we leaking into rivers and then feeding into the Lake. We had other challenges that we wouldn’t want to repeat."

(Kinzel) Natural Resources Secretary Deb Markowitz says the state hopes to develop some environmental solutions to reduce flood damage.

(Markowitz) "When we think about flood resiliency the goal is to slow the water down so that it can infiltrate so rather than going into surfaces waters that it goes down into the ground. Where you saw the greatest problem were areas that there’s a lot of impervious surface. A lot of roof tops a lot of roads and parking lots you also saw problems in some of our farm fields where the ditching went straight into tributary streams."

(Kinzel) And Markowitz says there are some scientific tools that could help the state’s effort.

(Markowitz) "We need an adequate hydrologic model of the Lake so that we know what a particular development’s impact will be on storm water. So we know what kind of infrastructure needs to be put in place to slow down that storm water. We don’t have that tool now."

(Kinzel) Governor Shumlin says solutions are needed because the torrential rain this spring is "a sign of what lies ahead."

(Shumlin) "Now scientists can quarrel about how often or how soon, but there’s no question that we’re moving to a wetter climate in Vermont, in New York State, in Quebec that’s going to have more violent delivery of that water and in ways that were not common to New England in the past and it’s a challenge for us."

(Kinzel) Shumlin says he’s hopeful that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo will also be an active participant in this project.

For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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