Summit to tackle Brandon flooding
By Bruce Edwards
STAFF WRITER | September 05,2013
BRANDON — Hoping to prevent flood damage when the Neshobe River overflows, the Brandon Planning Commission is hosting a workshop Saturday at the Town Hall.
Called Summit at the Falls, the goal of the interactive workshop is “to make a realistic and achievable plan to deal with future flood events as well as to improve recreational opportunities …”
Anne Bransfield, chairwoman of the Planning Commission, said the impetus for the summit was the devastation the town suffered two years ago as floods from Tropical Storm Irene rushed through the town.
“Well, the downtown suffered a lot of damage,” Bransfield said. “The two parks are still heavily damaged from it and the Brandon House of Pizza washed away, and there was other damage around town as well.”
The workshop from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. will tackle improving the flow of the Neshobe River through the downtown, including an understanding of flood plains, mitigation and river management.
Invited to the public workshop are Brandon policymakers, experts in watershed planning, community organizations, residents and landowners.
Ethan Swift, a Select Board member who works in the state’s Watershed Management Division, said there is no single solution to Brandon’s flood problems. Instead, he said it will take a multi-pronged approach.
Prior to Irene, Swift said the town undertook a physical assessment of the Neshobe River and how the river’s course had changed over the years to accommodate people settling on the flood plain.
In the Forest Dale section, upstream from the downtown, he said physical changes have contributed to the problem by preventing floodwaters from dissipating.
“Typically that’s what rivers need to do but in this case, in Forest Dale, the river has been historically straightened and bermed and armored,” Swift said. “And then we’ve had people throughout time, whether they were aware of the hazard of locating there or not, folks were encroaching on that flood plain area that the river needs to gain access to in order to dissipate energy.”
If it doesn’t create a conflict, he said one recommendation of the river assessment study is to remove berms, which would “allow the river to get back to some sort of a condition where it’s able to dissipate those flood waters upstream.”
Swift said putting in larger culverts is also part of the solution.
Removing structures from the flood plain is another goal.
The town was able to arrange to have the Federal Emergency Management Agency buy out one home in the flood plain on Wheeler Road, he said.
Swift said the town has also submitted a couple of grant proposals to FEMA to remove the old Vermont Tubbs factory in Forest Dale that was badly damaged during Irene.
Bransfield said the summit is intended to be a “community conversation.”
“It’s not just a matter of the work that needs to be done,” she said, “but the Planning Commission is interested in hearing everyone’s views, on getting everyone’s input on what should be done and what we should be thinking about in terms of future development.”
Part of the discussion will address how close to the river new development should be allowed.
“We really want everyone who is interested in the future of the river to be there,” Bransfield said.
Lunch and day care will be provided.
For more information, contact Tina Wiles, town zoning administrator, at 247-0227 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.