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ACT NO. 137

(H.621)

Emergency Management; Lamoille River Stream Bank Inventory

This act requires the executive branch, in consultation with the Vermont National Guard and certain local officials and others involved in emergency planning, to develop detailed recommendations for a state disaster relief, recovery and mitigation plan, and to report those recommendations to the general assembly by February 1, 1999. The plan shall include consideration of the following: (1) an appropriate chain of command for the assignment of management responsibilities; (2) a process to encourage development of local emergency action plans; (3) emergency requirements for state-owned or state-financed buildings; (4) design and financing of alternative emergency communication systems and procedures; (5) a sliding scale for municipality funding matches; (6) creation of a permanent source of funding for disaster damage to public infrastructure, private property, and lands and waters encompassed by the public trust doctrine, and for disaster-caused loss of income; and (7) guidelines for speedy delivery of funds, includingdesignation of a point person with authority to distribute funds.

The act requires the department of environmental conservation to develop flood control policies and a program that balances the need to protect the environment with the need to protect public and private property. The policy and program shall direct remedial measures following significant flooding events and shall define flood hazard mitigation measures. These measures may include: (1) debris removal and streambed and stream bank maintenance and restoration; (2) identification of disaster-prone areas; (3) land use planning assistance to minimize future flood damage; (4) flood proofing measures for existing vulnerable structures; (5) acquisition and relocation of structures away from hazard-prone areas; (6) development of state standards to protect public infrastructure from disaster damage; (7) structural hazard control, such as debris basins or floodwalls to protect critical facilities; and (8) educating the public regarding the advisability of obtaining flood insurance. The department is also required to incorporate into other programs administered by the department measures that decrease the likelihood and impact of future flooding incidents.

The act requires the secretary of natural resources, in coordination with other state agencies, to present to the general assembly a report which contains a proposed flood control policy, program and budget, as necessary to carry out this act. The report is to be presented by no later than January 15, 1999.

The act also requires the agency of natural resources to conduct an inventory of stream bank lands it owns or controls along the Lamoille River. For each parcel of land, the agency shall report on the current use of the parcel and its potential to supply public access to the river, and conduct a visual assessment of the characteristics of the parcel's riparian habitat and the nature and extent of stream bank erosion. The agency is required to compile a ranking of its sites in terms of potential for negative impact on water quality and aquatic habitat. Based on the inventory, the agency shall recommend appropriate erosion control or aquatic habitat improvement measures, or both. The inventory is 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.

Effective Date: The section of the bill that requires the agency of natural resources to develop flood control policies takes effect on July 1, 1998, the rest takes effect upon passage, April 21, 1998.