Flood Recovery Guidance
Agency of Natural Resources Water Quality Programs
The Wetlands Program, Lakes and Ponds Program, and Stormwater Management Program in the Department’s Water Quality Division are available to provide technical assistance to communities and individuals to expedite flood recovery in Vermont. Reports of damage to wetlands, docks, and stormwater management structures have already reached the Division. In addition to repairing existing structures, new work will be needed in connection with rebuilding bridges, roads, structures and power lines. Staff from the Wetlands, Lakes and Stormwater Programs are available to answer questions and provide technical assistance in connection with work impacting wetlands, lakes and ponds and involving stormwater management.
Approvals for Repairs to Existing Structures and New Work Needed to Recover from Flooding
One of the first questions asked in connection with emergency repairs is whether a permit is needed. In this recovery period, the Division will work to expedite approval for emergency repair work through a combination of existing emergency provisions in law, conditions in existing permits that allow repair work, and the exercise of enforcement discretion, whereby the Division may determine that work may proceed without permits. In some cases, but not all, a follow-up permit or approval will be issued in the months to come. In all cases, the Division is committed to working to help Vermonter’s recover quickly from this event without unnecessary delays. Division staff will work with individuals and communities to expedite approvals via phone calls and site visits.
Questions and requests for technical assistance should be directed to staff in the Wetlands, Lakes and Ponds, and Stormwater Programs at the phone numbers and emails listed below. Further contact information is available at www.vtwaterquality.org/contacts.htm. Calls may also be directed to the Division at 802-828-1535.
The Vermont Wetlands Rule provides that emergency repairs in a wetland and its buffer zone do not require a permit if:
- the configuration of the wetland’s outlet or the flow of water into or out of the wetland is not altered; and
- any draining, dredging, filling or grading only occurs in connection with emergency repair, cleanup, or maintenance of structures and facilities (including utility poles and lines, public transportation facilities, bulkheads, docks, piers, pilings, paved areas, houses, or other buildings), or emergency actions required to provide for public health, safety and welfare for disaster relief in connection with a federal or state-designated disaster.
People who take emergency actions in wetlands should minimize impacts to the wetland to the extent possible and should seek technical assistance from the Vermont Wetland’s program at the following numbers:
Shannon Morrison, District Wetlands Ecologist (Northeast Vermont)
Alan Quackenbush, Program Manager (Northwest Vermont)
Rebecca Chalmers, District Wetlands Ecologist (Central and Southern Vermont)
Julie Foley, District Wetlands Ecologist (Northwestern Vermont)
People who work in wetlands during this flood recovery period should also be aware that approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) may be required. The USACE New England Regional Office may be reached at (978) 318-8111.
Lakes and Ponds Program
During recent flooding, many lakes rose to high levels and lakeshore stability may have been compromised. Flood waters also washed significant amounts of phosphorus and sediments into many lakes, including Lake Champlain. The Lakes and Ponds Program staff is available to provide technical assistance and information to aid in addressing these issues. The Program will exercise enforcement discretion to expedite approvals of emergency repair work during this recovery period.
- The Lakes and Ponds Program recommends repairing damaged shorelines with vegetative designs, rather than hard structures such as retaining walls, whenever possible. A mix of native trees, shrubs and ground cover will hold the bank together better, especially over the long term.
- Visit our website www.vtwaterquality.org/lakes.htm for information on vegetative stabilization, plant selection, and lake-friendly shoreland management.
- All work in a lake (from the mean water level and lakeward) requires a permit from the Shoreland Encroachment Program. Contact Steven Hanna at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-490-6123 for information and technical assistance. If an eroding shoreline is an emergency, the program will determine if enforcement discretion may be utilized to expedite emergency work. In limited cases, an after-the-fact permit may be issued in the months to come.
- In addition to Steven Hanna, you may contact Susan Warren, Lakes and Ponds Program Manager, at 802-490-6134 for information regarding emergency work in Lakes and Ponds.
Algae Blooms, Including Blue-green Algae
It is possible that the large amount of phosphorus and sediment entering Lake Champlain and other lakes as a result of the flooding, will trigger late summer and fall algae blooms. Learn how to recognize a possible blue-green algae bloom and keep people and pets out of the water when they are present. See the Department of Health website for additional information: http://healthvermont.gov/enviro/bg_algae/bgalgae.aspx.
The Stormwater Program assists flood recovery through an expedited review of recovery-related projects. Existing stormwater management systems have been damaged or destroyed by heavy rains and flooding and new stormwater systems may be required in connection with large scale repair work on critical infrastructure, such as the rebuilding of roads, bridges and power lines.
While all stormwater regulations remain in effect, the Stormwater Program will be working to expedite approval of emergency work and exercising enforcement discretion as appropriate. In some cases, an after-the-fact permit or other approval may be issued in the months to come. The Program will evaluate repair work on a case-by-case basis as needed to determine the most appropriate approval process.
Affected property owners are encouraged to contact Stormwater Program technical staff for their area immediately to obtain any needed information and to arrange field consultations for:
- The repair of existing stormwater systems; and
- The construction of new structures and impervious surfaces in connection with emergency repairs when the new structures or surfaces would have required a stormwater permit in non-emergency situations. This includes construction-related disturbances of greater than one acre and the construction of impervious surfaces equal to or greater than one acre.
Field visits and approvals will be expedited for this emergency repair work and enforcement discretion exercised as appropriate. Stormwater Program staff will apply the following general approach to expediting approvals for emergency-related work:
- Reconstruction of damaged permitted stormwater systems may proceed under the existing permit.
- Construction- related disturbances of greater than one acre performed in connection with emergency-related work should proceed prior to obtaining permit coverage if necessary to prevent further damage or to restore the use of a given facility; however, such projects should apply for coverage under the NPDES Construction General Stormwater Permit as soon as possible. Given the tight schedule for some emergency repair projects, the Program will exercise enforcement discretion in determining which projects will require permit coverage or other approval. There will be no-after-the-fact construction permitting once a site is permanently stabilized.
- Under existing regulations, reconstruction projects involving > 1 acre of impervious surfaces often require a post-construction stormwater operational permit. On a case-by-case basis, the Program will advise property owners that they may proceed without a permit provided that they design the stormwater system for the reconstruction project with appropriate best management practices (BMPs). The Program recognizes that in some cases existing site constraints in areas of reconstruction may limit the number and type of BMPs that are achievable. In some cases, an after-the-fact permit or other approval may be required in the course of the next year in order to ensure the proper long-term inspection and maintenance of the stormwater system.
Stormwater Program Contacts:
Padraic Monks, Program Manager
Tom Benoit (Northern Vermont)
Kevin Burke (Chittenden County)
Christina Hutchinson (Central Vermont)
Ryan McCall (Southwestern Vermont)