Upper Connecticut River, Vermont General Investigation Feasibility Study

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), New England District is completing a General Investigation Feasibility Study on the Upper Connecticut River Watershed (Figure 1).  The final product of the feasibility study will be a Final Integrated Feasibility Report and Environmental Assessment (FIFREA).  This report will identify the National Economic Development (NED) plan for reducing flood risk within the Connecticut River Watershed portion of Vermont. The report includes input from Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (VTDEC), who is the non-Federal Sponsor, local governments, natural resource agencies, and the public.

This feasibility study follows the USACE process implemented in 2012 - SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Risk Informed, Timely) Planning – for conducting civil works feasibility studies for water resources development projects. SMART planning objective is to improve and streamline feasibility studies, reduce their cost, and expedite their completion.  The DIFREA: (1) summarizes the problems, needs, and opportunities for flood risk management within the affected area of the upper Connecticut River Watershed, State of Vermont; (2) presents and discusses the results of the plan formulation for protection of resources; and (3) identifies specific details of the NED and the Locally Preferred Plan (LPP), including inherent risks.

Figure 1: (A) Connecticut River Watershed; (B) Portion of the Connecticut River Watershed in Vermont with town boundaries.

Over the course of the SMART planning process, USACE evaluated an array of structural measures including channel improvements, bridge redesign, and non-structural measures for the identification of the NED and LLP plans.  This evaluation included input from the nonfederal sponsor and coordination with local stakeholders and resource agencies.

The study is authorized under a Resolution of the Senate Committee on Public Works, adopted 11 May 1962 which was resolved on 25 May 2001 Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. The Non-Federal Sponsor for the study is the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources Department of Environmental Conservation (VTDEC).  The feasibility study will be completed with 100% Federal funding. 

The purpose of the feasibility study is to determine if there is a technically feasible, economically justified and environmentally compliant recommendation for Federal participation in flood risk reduction management for the Upper Connecticut River in Vermont study area.  The  NED plan will reduce economic damage from storm events to residents, infrastructures, and businesses within the study area through the year 2075.  The study was needed as existing riverine floodplain properties are at risk from storm damage.  Some property owners and communities have implemented individual solutions and small scale solutions and but the area continues to experience storm damage, flood inundation, and erosion.  

Project Area

The Connecticut River is New England’s great river and one of only 14 designated American Heritage Rivers.  It is New England’s largest watershed and river, ~11,000 square-miles, 41,000 acres and 410 miles respectively. The Connecticut River flows through four states (New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut), connects 148 tributaries, and is New England’s largest freshwater ecosystem, covering 7.2 million acres (CCRS et al. 2013).  This study focuses on Vermont’s portion of the Connecticut River Watershed and the study area economic damage areas includes Passumpsic River (Town of Lyndon), North Branch of the Deerfield River (Town of Wilmington), Whetstone River (City of Brattleboro), Ottauquechee River and Kedron Brook (Town of Woodstock).  Residential and commercial properties in the study floodplains are vulnerable to inundation from storms.  The study areas includes about 620 structures most of which are residential.  The total value of the existing residential and commercial inventory is estimated to be worth over $150 million.

Figure 2: Study reach locations within the State of Vermont.

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