Cleaning Up After the Storm

Since Sunday night, communities across Windsor County — and across the state — have been incredibly affected by this latest storm. This is my first term as a legislator and I’m learning how to function in a crisis unlike any we’ve faced since 2011 and Hurricane Irene. Since last seek, I’ve been in contact daily with the legislative liaison in the Governor’s office to find the right people to get us the answers and the support we all need in this challenging time.  

Please know that as your representative, I don’t have an office or a staff to assist me. None of the legislators do: we are a citizen-based legislature. And I’m doing my best to attend to your needs while I am back to work full-time myself.

And I’ve been directly affected. My two lodging establishments in Plymouth were flooded and one of them was deemed a total loss. I had to evacuate guests by bucket loader to emergency shelters during a landslide when a stream redirected to my property and I have had to muck out for the past week and work over the weekend. This is why I haven’t yet been visited all the communities in my district.

Over the weekend, I took the concerns about the water supply in Woodstock straight to the Speaker of the House. Her Chief of Staff, who graduated from Woodstock Union High School, immediately advocated for help with the Governor’s staff and all relevant state agencies. The Administration acted fast to assist the Woodstock Aqueduct Co in obtaining the correct pipe and getting it delivered on Monday and have continued to provide the Woodstock Aqueduct Co with the required steps to restore the system to proper, healthy, functioning.

Tess Malloy, from the Woodstock Aqueduct Co, sends out frequent email updates informing us of health and safety updates (contact her at [email protected]).

Many people have reached out for clarification, specifically regarding PFAS.  I am working to obtain the answers and the protocols to ensure our communities are safe during this transition back to drinking the water. We all want it to be safe: my family is on this water system too!

In Plymouth, we have experienced many landslides and I have emails out to those officials who help Vermonter’s make decisions about how to protect their homes now that unprecedented storms are more common occurrences.

The Rivers and Streams Engineers are out in all towns viewing damage, making suggestions for emergency mitigation and then working on longer term solutions.

Across the State, many measures taken after Irene were effective at moving water in the paths desired during this storm. Unfortunately, other areas were newly affected or the restoration practices failed and will require the new fixes. [The New York Times had a good story about how some of the initiatives begun after Irene were effective at mitigating or preventing damage during this storm.] 

The Administration and the Legislature have a long road ahead of us to determine how best to rebuild statewide. We need to make choices that work with the flow of water, which, as we’ve learned, can be unpredictable and move rapidly and with great force. We need to identify our most dangerous water sources and runoff areas to make smart, calculated investments. And we need to plan to rebuild our infrastructure to withstand greater water flows in times of heavy rain. We may also have to look more closely at how and where we build.

Despite the wreckage from this storm, we can be grateful that fewer lives were lost this time than during Irene. We have to assume that these storms will be more frequent, more intense, and more dangerous to people and to property. And even if they aren’t, good water management is a key investment to mitigate the damages from storms like this one which are extremely expensive and life-threatening.

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