By LISA RATHKE, Associated Press
BARRE, Vt. (AP) — Nearly six years after Tropical Storm Irene inundated Vermont, a neighborhood in downtown Barre has become the latest area to prepare for future flooding by removing a bridge and some homes prone to flooding to create a flood plain.
Republican Gov. Phil Scott and city officials highlighted the $1 million project Thursday.
The city in July demolished three homes bought through a Federal Emergency Management Agency buyout program so a flood plain could be created for the Gunners Brook that has repeatedly flooded neighborhood.
The city also has removed a bridge that caused a choke point in the river, added concrete piles to collect debris and hopes to demolish two other homes this fall. The flood plain will become a public park with trees and shrubs planted along the brook.
“This was long overdue,” said Mayor Thomas Lauzon, who said residents of the low- to middle-income neighborhood had been repeatedly subjected to flooding.
“These basements would fill with water. Flood insurance wouldn’t cover it because the water wasn’t high enough. Homeowners (insurance) wouldn’t insure it. They were just constantly caught in the middle digging two feet of muck out of their basements,” the Republican mayor said.
Hundreds of millions of dollars in repairs to public infrastructure and private property have been completed around Vermont as the sixth anniversary of Tropical Storm Irene approaches. About 13 Vermont communities were cut off for days by flood waters that destroyed roads and bridges.
“Climate change is real. We’re seeing more and more storm activity, higher amounts of rain in a short period of time, and that stresses all the resources, all the infrastructure that we had,” Scott said.
The flood resilience work is continuing in Barre, and so far it appears to be paying off. During a July storm, the area kept the water level down, slowed down the water and removed debris.
“It seemed to do what we were intending it to do. So (we’re) cautiously optimistic,” MacKenzie said.