RUTLAND TOWN — Gov. Peter Shumlin said Monday that Tropical Storm Irene will not be the last natural disaster to hit Vermont and signed a bill aimed at better preparing for the next one.
Shumlin signed S.202, the “rivers bill,” which establishes state regulation of flood hazard areas in compliance with the National Flood Insurance Program and allows towns to adopt more stringent requirements than the state ones.
He signed it at Williams Farmstead Gardens on Route 7, in front of a field that flooded during the storm. As he signed, uprooted trees still lined the bank of East Creek.
“We stand here today to sign a bill that became necessary as a result of the extraordinary destruction of Irene,” he said. “We stand at a stream where Irene did some of its worst damage in the state.”
Shumlin noted that Vermont has had more than 20 natural disasters in the last decade and that, with climate change, the state can expect more severe storms.
“It wasn’t like that when I was a kid,” he said.
Shumlin said the bill will help the various levels of government work in partnership to minimize the damage of the next storm, delineating responsibilities and protecting the portions of Vermont’s rivers that help slow swiftly flowing waters.
Transportation Secretary Brian Searles and Agency of Natural Resources Secretary Deb Markowitz joined Shumlin, though their remarks were often drowned out by traffic passing on Route 7.
“We did learn a lot from Irene,” Searles said. “I think the big lesson is we know we can do things better, we don’t need a big emergency to do things better, and doing things better means doing things together. ... We need to learn more because we need to understand what rivers do at the Agency of Transportation if we’re going to mitigate the hundreds of millions of dollars of damage we saw in Irene.”
Sen. Kevin Mullin, R-Rutland County, said the bill was an example of one of government’s best goals — emergency preparedness.
“We will be prepared for the next storm,” he said. “Let’s hope we have a long time before that occurs.”
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