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NO. 137. AN ACT RELATING TO DEVELOPMENT OF A DISASTER RELIEF, RECOVERY AND MITIGATION PLAN.

(H.621)

It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:

Sec. 1. DISASTER RELIEF, RECOVERY AND MITIGATION PLAN;

DEVELOPMENT; EMERGENCY DIRECTOR

The executive branch, in consultation with the Vermont National Guard, the agency of natural resources, representatives from state groups that are involved in emergency planning and at least four local officials from municipalities that have handled a nationally declared emergency in the past three years, shall develop detailed recommendations for a state disaster relief, recovery and mitigation plan and report their recommendations in writing to the general assembly on or before February 1, 1999. The plan shall include consideration of the following:

(1) An appropriate chain of command for the assignment of management responsibilities that assures immediate, effective and efficient implementation of disaster relief services and funds.

(2) A process or procedure to motivate, encourage and help in the development of local emergency action plans. The process may provide for regional or municipal plans, as appropriate and planning incentives.

(3) Emergency requirements for state owned or state-financed buildings.

(4) Design and financing of alternative emergency communication systems and procedures.

(5) Sliding scale for municipality funding matches, including a clear policy on uses of in-kind matches, with eligibility criteria for funding related to the cost efficiency of a plan.

(6) Creation of a permanent source of funding that supplements existing state and federal funding for disaster damage to public infrastructure; private property, including dwellings, businesses and farms; lands and waters encompassed by the public trust doctrine; and loss of income.

(7) Guidelines for distributing funds that include clear eligibility requirements,funding priorities, a procedure that assures speedy and efficient delivery of funds to a region in which the Governor has declared an emergency that resulted from a disaster. The procedure shall include designation of a point person, such as the Secretary of Civil and Military Affairs, who has the authority to distribute emergency funds.

Sec. 2. 10 V.S.A. § 905b(3) is amended to read:

The department shall protect and manage the water resources of the state in accordance with the provisions of this subchapter and shall:

* * *

(3) have supervision over and act as the state's agency in all matters affecting flood control, channel clearing and river bank protection. To discharge this responsibility, the department shall

(A) develop flood control policies and a flood control program that balances the need to protect the environment with the need to protect public and private property. The policy and program shall direct appropriate remedial measures following significant flooding events and shall define appropriate flood hazard mitigation measures. These measures may include:

(i) flood debris removal and streambed and stream bank maintenance and restoration practices;

(ii) identification of disaster-prone areas;

(iii) land use planning assistance to minimize future damage from flooding;

(iv) flood proofing measures for existing vulnerable private or public structures;

(v) acquisition and relocation of structures away from hazard-prone areas;

(vi) development of state standards to protect public infrastructure from disaster damage;

(vii) structural hazard control, such as debris basins or floodwalls to protect critical facilities;

(viii) educating the public regarding the availability of flood insurance and the advisability of obtaining flood insurance;

(B) develop and implement steps to incorporate into other programs administered by the department measures that decrease the likelihood and impact of future flooding incidents;

Sec. 3. REPORT

By no later than January 15, 1999, the secretary of natural resources, in coordination with other state agencies, shall present to the general assembly a report which contains a proposed flood control policy, program and budget, as necessary to carry out the provisions of this act. This report shall include any necessary proposals for statutory change.

Sec. 4. LAMOILLE RIVER STREAM BANK INVENTORY; PILOT PROJECT

(a) The agency of natural resources shall conduct an inventory of stream bank lands it owns or controls along the Lamoille River in Orleans, Caledonia, Lamoille and Franklin counties. For each parcel of land, the agency shall

(1) report on the current use of the parcel and the potential of the parcel to supply public access to the river; and

(2) conduct a visual assessment of the characteristics of the parcel's riparian habitat and the nature and extent of stream bank erosion.

(b) The agency shall compile a ranking of its sites in terms of potential for negative impact on the overall water quality and aquatic habitat of the river. Based on the inventory of current conditions, the agency also shall recommend appropriate erosion control or aquatic habitat improvement measures, or both. It is the purpose of this inventory to help interested citizens prioritize their stream bank restoration efforts. The agency shall report on these matters to the general assembly by December 15, 1998.

Sec. 5. EFFECTIVE DATE

This section and Secs. 1, 3 and 4 of this act shall take effect upon passage. Sec. 2 of this act shall take effect on July 1, 1999.

Approved: April 21, 1998