Sunday, April 22, 2012

Lake Champlain floods of 2011 renew interest in flood control

Candace Page in the Burlington Free Press: Record-high water one year ago has renewed a question that has vexed two states, a province and two national governments off and on for 100 years: Should spring floods on Lake Champlain and its outlet, the Richelieu River in Quebec, be prevented — or at least reduced — by regulating the flow of water in the Richelieu?

The discussion, still in its earliest stages, includes a lawsuit by Quebec residents seeking to have the Richelieu dredged to handle more water, thus reducing upstream flood levels in the river and Lake Champlain. It also includes a proposal by the federal governments of Canada and the United States to study solutions that could include a flood-control dam.

....Renewed discussion this spring of flood control on the lake comes with a certain irony, as water levels on Lake Champlain and in the Richelieu are near an all-time spring low. Nevertheless, floods are expected to return in future years, and the stakes are high.

Lake Champlain rose to its highest recorded level, 103.2 feet above sea level, on May 6, 2011. High water lasted into mid-June, destroying 24 Vermont homes and damaging another 419. The Federal Emergency Management Agency paid $1.8 million to individuals and $8.6 million to cities, towns and the state to help cover damage to roads, bridges, culverts and other infrastructure.

Flooding along the Richelieu had even more devastating effects, damaging 3,000 houses in 20 communities, forcing more than 1,000 people from their homes and costing governments at least $22.3 million....

A NASA image of flooding along the Richelieu River, Quebec

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