Monday, November 28, 2011

Vermont Environmental & Land Use Law, December 8, 2011

Photo by fwithclass44 on Flickr

Vermont updates Irene damage estimates, could cost state $100 million,
Today Secretary of Administration Jeb Spaulding and Irene Recovery Officer Neale Lunderville released updated information, damage, and cost estimates for Tropical Storm Irene. This update reflects Congressional waivers of the $100 million cap and 180-day emergency work limit for the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Emergency Relief (ER) program, as well as a compilation of smaller changes.

Both the best and worst case models show the waivers for FHWA and the anticipated 90% cost share for FEMA Public Assistance. The principal differences between the models are the low and high range of damage estimates to the Federal-Aid Highway System ($175-250 million range), and an unresolved question about reimbursement for certain Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) costs. Both scenarios add new information and cost estimates as outline below.

“We continue to monitor estimates daily and will update these figures every three to four weeks,” said Secretary Spaulding.
NRC to review Vermont Yankee repair mistake, Burlington Free Press
A spokesman for the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission says it will review an incident at the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant in which one of the plant's emergency backup diesel generators was down for service and a plant technician mistakenly shut down the other one as well.

The NRC's Neil Sheehan says both generators were out of service for about 2 minutes on Friday after a technician sent to work on one disconnected the other from its fuel supply.

Sheehan says the plant continued to operate normally during the incident. The generators are used if a general power outage causes the nuclear plant to lose power from the electric grid. But Sheehan says Vermont Yankee has other backup systems as well, including batteries and a tie to a nearby hydroelectric dam.
Vermont sugar makers to share $54,000 in federal grants, Burlington Free Press
ST. JOHNSBURY — Five maple syrup producers in Vermont will share nearly $54,000 in federal grants to make their operations more energy efficient and competitive.

The funding from the Rural Energy for America Program administered by the United States Department of Agriculture will allow the sugar makers to install reverse osmosis systems. Those systems remove water from the sap before it’s boiled into syrup, reducing the amount of energy used.

The amount of the grants range from $24,000 to $2,000. Officials say the REAP grants can finance up to 25 percent of a project’s cost, up to $500,000 for renewable energy systems and $250,000 for energy efficiency improvements.
Vermonters mull rerouting rivers after Irene, WCAX
(AP) - Vermonters are finding some rivers rerouted by the floodwaters of Tropical Storm Irene, and it not clear whether putting them back on their original path is the best idea.

The Burlington Free Press ( ) says the issue has come up in several places. North of Rutland, the East Creek was clogged with mounds of debris which some residents fear will cut off the road and threaten three dams and the Chittenden Reservoir with the next heavy rain.

Local residents who led Gov. Peter Shumlin on a tour of the storm-altered creek recently asked him to clear out the debris and fix the creek that Irene rerouted.

But Todd Menees, a state river management engineer, urges caution. Menees says clearing the way in one spot could cause further damage downstream by increasing the river's flow.

Post-Irene, new consideration given to culvert sizes in Vermont, Burlington Free Press
MONTPELIER -- Culverts don't get much notice until they back up in heavy rains and cause damage to roads or other property. After the flooding triggered by the remnants of Hurricane Irene, they're getting plenty of attention in Vermont now.

New consideration is being given to whether culverts -- the manmade channels that carry water under many roads -- need to be larger to accommodate not just flood waters, but the silt and debris they often carry.

The Vermont Agency of Transportation standard for culverts under town roads is that they should be able to withstand the biggest flood expected to occur in a 25-year period. The Agency of Natural Resources uses a different standard, calling for a larger culvert. It says they should be 1.2 times the maximum width a stream reaches on a yearly basis.

"Within the state of Vermont there are two different culvert standards. There needs to be a conversation about why that is," said Mary Russ, executive director of the White River Partnership, a regional group that seeks to protect the Connecticut River tributary.

There actually are three standards within the Transportation Agency itself, Richard Tetreault, the agency's director of program development, said in an interview Thursday. The 25-year flood standard is for town roads. Culverts under state highways are built to withstand a 50-year flood, and under the interstates, they are built for a 100-year flood.

Flood relief bill signed into law, Burlington Free Press
President Barack Obama signed into law Friday a bill whose provisions on emergency aid drafted by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., may save Vermont many millions of dollars, Leahy's office said.

"Leahy's provisions and funding will save Vermont tens of millions or perhaps even more than a hundred million dollars, depending on what the eventual repair tab becomes, and (Gov. Peter) Shumlin, the Legislature and all concerned have made clear that these Leahy provisions are by far the most important relief that Vermont needs after Irene," Leahy communications director David Carle said in an email Friday.

The bill was also supported by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt. It replenishes the government's transportation emergency fund and provides for cost waivers that will aid in road and bridge repair.

Portions of central and southern Vermont were devastated Aug. 28 by Tropical Storm Irene, which caused some of the worst flooding in the state's history.

Towns Begin To See FEMA Funds As Irene Repairs Continue, VPR
(Host) Cities and towns across Vermont have begun to receive checks from FEMA to help them repair Tropical Storm Irene damage. The amounts are just a drop in the bucket for many communities. But as VPR's Kirk Carapezza reports, town officials are struggling to pay for multi-million dollar repairs, and they're happily taking the money.

(Carapezza) Irene's floodwaters washed out gravel roads and destroyed bridges that provide access to the 800 homes in Halifax. Christina Moore is the project manager for the town near the Massachusetts border. She says the town suffered at least $7 million worth of damage.

(Moore) "The town of Halifax has an annual budget of roughly $800,000, and we've been stretching that $800,000 to pay for these damages. So seeing any movement from FEMA is just good news for us."

(Carapezza) FEMA says as of the start of the week, it had obligated $1.3 million to Vermont communities to repair buildings, roads and other facilities.

For many cash-strapped communities, that's not much money, but it's unexpected.

(Portalupi) "We're ahead of the game compared to most disasters." Alec Portalupi is with the Agency of Transportation, which collects the money from FEMA and then distributes it to the towns. He says the state is handling this natural disaster differently from others because there's such a budget crunch.

10 AmeriCorps volunteers to do more Vt Irene work, WCAX
MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - AmeriCorps volunteers are going to be staying in Vermont a bit longer to help with the continuing cleanup from Tropical Storm Irene.

AmeriCorps officials say 40 volunteers from the federal program have contributed more than 6,290 hours so far since the storm triggered widespread flooding in the state Aug. 28.

Ten AmeriCorps volunteers are now planning to stay in Vermont through mid-December. They'll be assessing the damage on affected homes, mucking and gutting damaged homes, remediating mold, and removing debris.

According to a metric developed by a coalition of nonprofit groups called Independent Sector, the volunteers so far have donated more than $134,000 worth of time to Irene cleanup efforts.

Vermont groups get $1.2 million in Sustainable Communities grants,
Two Vermont organizations have received $1.2 million as part of HUD grants. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Secretary Shaun Donovan today announced the recipients of the 2011 Sustainable Communities Grants, totaling over $97 million nationwide. Twenty seven communities and organizations across the country will receive Community Challenge grants and 29 regional areas will receive Regional Planning grants. The goal of the Sustainable Communities grants is to help communities and regions improve their economic competitiveness by connecting housing with good jobs, quality schools and transportation.