Waterways Legislation Advances

Waterways Legislation Advances

Legislation to reduce the risk of flood damage and spur the cleanup of lakes and ponds also passed this session.

Much of the bill comes as a response to the damage inflicted by tropical storm Irene last year.

The legislation, S.202, requires the Agency of Natural Resources to develop rules to regulate buildings in flood zones – like state buildings, schools, churches, and agricultural structures – that have until now been exempt from local zoning oversight, and therefore exempt from the National Flood Insurance Program.

The legislation also prohibits building berms in flood hazard areas without a permit, and requires ANR to hold training sessions on how, during a flood emergency, to manage things like stream alteration, fish and wildlife habitat, and wastewater discharges.

The bill also aims to jumpstart efforts to reduce pollution flowing into surface waters, like Lake Champlain. ANR must report to the legislature by the end of the year with recommendations for fixing or improving water quality, including whether a statewide “stormwater utility” makes sense.

The bill requires a study of high elevation stormwater management policies. It transfers rulemaking authority from the Water Resources Panel to ANR and expands the public participation process for DEC rulemaking broadly. It also allows Vermont Housing and Conservation Board funds to be used to protect lands that safeguard the quality of surface waters and associated natural resources.