Re-evaluating Vermont’s Stormwater Infrastructure in Light of the 2011 and 2023 Floods
Co-Authored by Tyler Barnard, EV Civil Staff Engineer
Every four years the Vermont Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) publishes the Infrastructure Report Card. It serves to educate the public and elected officials on the status of Vermont’s infrastructure using a graded scale from A, to F. The reporting on condition and critical need is an indispensable asset, and in light of the recent flooding events affecting Vermont communities, we feel it is important to champion this work.
The 2023 Report was released in February of this year. Across the board, it praises government spending on the American Rescue Plan as an effort to make our state more resilient to future storm events.
Tyler Barnard from our civil engineering department co-authored the Stormwater Section of the 2019 and 2023 Report Cards. He, along with other authors are volunteer members of the ASCE Board of Directors and members of the community.
They dedicate time and resources to this report, which is used by community leaders to better prioritize limited funding. Overall, this helps to improve the condition, capacity, operations, maintenance, safety, innovation, and resilience of critical infrastructure.
The 9 Infrastructure Categories
- Drinking Water
- Solid Waste
Stormwater and Climate Resilience
Stormwater scored a D+ in 2019, and C- in 2023. While things are improving, anything in the C range is considered “Mediocre: Requires Attention.”
“The infrastructure in the system or network is in fair to good condition; it shows general signs of
deterioration and requires attention. Some elements exhibit significant deficiencies in conditions and
functionality, with increasing vulnerability to risk,” – Vermont’s Infrastructure Report Card
Historically, stormwater control and treatment has been lower on the public’s priority list than the roads we commute on and the quality of the water we drink. However, it has quickly jumped to the front of everyone’s minds as climate change affects weather patterns and rainfall events, and we brace for future floods. So what can we do to help ease climate concerns, and boost resilience?
Solutions to Raise the Grade
The following is pulled directly from the 2023 report.
VT-ASCE makes the following recommendations to raise the grade of Vermont’s stormwater:
- Establish a state budget committee to effectively define and fund short-term and long-term needs.
- Establish scale-appropriate clean water utilities at the municipal level that provide a consistent and dedicated labor force for stormwater management improvements and maintenance.
- Establish an easily accessible statewide system that inventories the size, condition, capacity, procedures for operations and maintenance, and capital needs of all public and privately-owned stormwater assets.
- Improve stormwater infrastructure through retrofit of older systems that provide minimal water quality benefit and continue to embrace innovative water quality treatment practices for future new development and redevelopment.
- Fund research in stormwater management and treatment technology to improve water quality and reduce capital expenditures. This includes exploring options to address maintenance and monitoring of stormwater infrastructure, whether public or private.
- Develop additional funding sources for stormwater, GSI, and LID projects.
The full report goes in depth on the condition and capacity of existing stormwater infrastructure, how the state and municipalities are operating and maintaining their networks, and future funding and needs (pages 67-73). The full report can be found at: https://infrastructurereportcard.org/state-item/vermont/