Monday, September 8, 2014

Free FEMA Trainings in Vermont, 9/15-9/17

We have been able to arrange a few different FEMA trainings to be offered around Vermont next week.  All of the trainings are FREE, but space is limited, so be sure to RSVP to Morgaine Bell of the Vermont Rivers Program ASAP.

These classes are geared towards local zoning administrators, local and regional planners, consultants and engineers, but all are welcome.  And please note that you need not be from Vermont to attend!  So please send a link to this post to anyone you think may be interested in these classes.  

We will have the trainings pre-approved for Certified Floodplain Manager (CFM) Continuing Education Credits (CECs) as well, so this will be a great way to get some additional CECs in for this year.  


Monday, September 15th
Act 250 Conference Room, Fish & Wildlife Building
111 West Street, Essex Junction VT

8am-12pm: Coastal Construction
1pm-5pm: Floodplain Management

Tuesday, September 16th
St. Albans Free Library
11 Maiden Lane, St. Albans VT
8am-12pm: Coastal Construction

Winooski Conference Room
1 National Life Drive - Main 2, Montpelier VT
12pm-4pm: Intro to CRS and CRS Quick Check

Wednesday, September 17th
Welcome Center
3 Railroad Ave, Windsor VT
8am-12pm: Floodplain Management

Intro to Community Rating System (CRS)
This short session is designed for local officials interested in learning more about the Community Rating System (CRS).  CRS recognizes community floodplain management activities that exceed the minimum NFIP standards. Besides the benefit of reduced insurance rates, CRS floodplain management activities enhance public safety, reduce damages to property and infrastructure, avoid economic disruption and losses, and protect the environment. More information about CRS is available online at:

CRS Quick Check
The Community Rating System (CRS) Quick Check is a new tool developed to help communities join the CRS.
The objective of the CRS Quick Check is to show that the community is doing enough floodplain management activities above and beyond the minimum requirements of the National Flood Insurance Program to warrant 500 credit points, enough to be a CRS Class 9 or better. This workshop is designed to assist communities that are interested in applying for CRS by discussing the more common activities that CRS communities receive credit for and what documentation would be needed to support the credited points. The Quick Check is available online at: 
Please bring your completed checklist and/or questions to this class.

Intro to Floodplain Management (NFIP 101)
This introductory course is designed to provide an organized training opportunity for local officials responsible for administering their local floodplain management ordinance. The course will focus on the NFIP and concepts of floodplain management, maps and studies, ordinance administration, and the relationship between floodplain management and flood insurance. The FEMA Elevation Certificate (EC) and Map Service Center (MSC) website will also be discussed briefly during the course.

Intro to Coastal Residential Construction
This intense workshop is intended to give attendees an overview of the contents of FEMA’s Coastal Construction Manual and to provide information on how to ensure one- to four-family residential buildings in coastal areas are properly sited, designed, constructed, and maintained. This course is a compressed version of the E386 Residential Coastal Construction held over 4 days at EMI yearly.  In addition, staff of the VT Watershed Management Division’s Lakes and Ponds Program will be providing information about how these coastal construction techniques may overlap with the new Vermont Shoreland Permit Program.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

August NFIP Trainings

Hello all,

I’d like to present the upcoming free, online trainings available through STARR. These trainings cover a variety of topics, from the NFIP basics through specifics of elevation certificates, and are presented by STARR staff, FEMA, and State organizations. Many of the courses are eligible for CEC credits for Certified Floodplain Managers.

Please feel free to register for any courses you are interested in attending, and invite or pass information on these courses on to potentially interested communities or organizations in your states. Also, if you are interested in using this online platform for any trainings that your state would like to present, STARR can support you in that effort. Please let me know if you’d like additional information on hosting online trainings.

and click the “Upcoming” tab. Below are the courses offered in August:

August 27, 1:00 pm Eastern – Floodplain Development Permit Review
This 90-minute session will highlight eight basic steps to reviewing development inside the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA). This is beginner training, recommended for those new to the role of floodplain administrator. 1 CEC for ASFPM Certified Floodplain Managers.

August 28, 1:00 pm Eastern – Inspecting Floodplain Development
This beginner two-hour session will highlight special considerations for plan reviewers and building inspectors when evaluating and inspecting development inside the Special Flood Hazard Area, including basic concepts and terminology, minimum construction standards (from the IBC/IRC), and conducting inspections. 2 CECs for ASFPM Certified Floodplain Managers.

In addition, here is a summary of courses currently scheduled in September. Additional courses may be added, so check for the current list:

Sep 4, 2014, 1:00 PM Eastern- NFIP Basics
Sep 16, 2014, 1:00 PM Eastern- CRS Webinar Series: Preparing an Annual Recertification Sep 17, 2014, 1:00 PM Eastern- CRS Webinar Series: Drainage System Maintenance
Sep 18, 2014, 1:00 PM Eastern- Elevation Certificates

Please let me know if you have any questions.
Thank you!

Alex Sirotek, GISP, CFM
FEMA Region 1 Service Center
99 High Street, 3rd Floor
Boston, MA 02110

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Is Your Community Flood Ready?

How will post-disaster funding for communities change in October?  
What does your community need to do?  
Is you community planning in order to avoid flood damage?

Visit the new Flood Ready Vermont website to find out.  

Flood Ready Vermont has the tools and data your community needs to:

Use the Flood Ready Atlas to help you identify what is working to keep your community flood resilient and where structures are at risk.  Community Reports quickly compile useful information for your municipal and hazard mitigation plans.  

Flood Ready Vermont is a place where community leaders can share information and ideas to make our communities more flood resilient.  

Funding for the design of the website was provided by the High Meadows Fund, promoting vibrant communities and a healthy natural environment while encouraging long term economic vitality in Vermont; and through a Federal Emergency Management Agency Hazard Mitigation Grant.

Early partners to inspire and help launch the site include the Connecticut River Watershed Council (CRWC) and the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF), as ably represented by David Deen, Upper Valley River Steward for CRWC; Angela Mrozinski, Outreach Director for CRWC; Ron Rhodes, North Country River Steward for CRWC; and Anthony Iarrapino, Senior Attorney for CLF.

The website development and design team was led by Daniel Shearer, Tamarack Media Cooperative, and Beka Mandell, Webskillet Cooperative.

Let us know what you think and tell your story about working for flood resilience!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

EPA is looking for feedback on Clean Water Act jurisdiction

Some readers may have heard a little bit about the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) creating a rule having to do with the Clean Water Act.  A few years ago, a US Supreme Court Decision made it clear that the EPA and the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) needed to clarify which streams and wetlands were under the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act.  The result has been a scientific literature review and a proposed rule.  With the proposed rule, not much has actually changed in what is regulated and how.  A lot of the rule is focused on clarifying that tributaries to major, navigable rivers are protected and that wetlands which are connected to downstream waters are also covered by the Clean Water Act.

Part of the update was also for EPA to expand the exemptions for agricultural production.  These exemptions are in addition the those that are already established.  There have been questions about what type of agricultural activities are going to be regulated, so the EPA has compiled facts about the proposed rule and the agricultural exemptions.  In some groups, there are concerns that too many farming activities are going to be exempted, while there has been quite a push-back from others about the new rule with the misconception that more agricultural activities are going to be regulated.  The EPA's sites are trying to clarify just what would and would not be under the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

New Flood Map for Richmond Goes Into Effect Aug. 4 Last Chance to Grandfather Flood Zone

An updated flood map will become effective in the Town of Richmond on August 4, 2014. Flood Insurance Rate Maps are produced by FEMA to identify flood hazard risks for the National Flood Insurance Program.  The current and future flood hazard maps are viewable at the Richmond Town Center Building.  The current map is also online at the FEMA map service center .  To view the new maps (upcoming Preliminary Digital Flood Insurance Rate Map (DFIRM)) please visit the Vermont Flood Ready Atlas at

Owners of buildings in Richmond should be aware of the flood risks shown on the new map.  Over one hundred buildings currently identified as in low risk locations will be reclassified as being in high risk locations when the new map goes into effect. If a building is currently identified as in a low risk location, and later will be in a high risk location, a special low cost insurance opportunity is available to those who obtain flood insurance immediately before the map change.

The Town of Richmond has worked with Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission to help identify buildings in or near the area of map change.  Please remember that the official version of the current map (July 5, 1982) is actually the paper (or .pdf) version of the map.  Contact the Richmond Town Planner at 434-2430 or for more information.

Buildings identified as going from low risk to high risk during the map change are eligible to obtain flood insurance now at the lowest rate.  If the policy with the grandfathered rate zone is maintained it can be passed on to future owners. Structures in the area of map change that do not have an active policy (check deposited) by the time the new designation goes into effect will have access to a Preferred Risk Policy (PRP) in the first year, then rates will gradually increase to the full costs for a property considered high risk. Please note that the policy must be paid, processed and fully in effect before August 4th to qualify for lower rates. To get flood insurance or more information on grandfathering contact the agent that provides your homeowner’s insurance or find an agent using

Flood insurance is rated for the highest risk area that any part of the building touches.   Any mortgage or loan to a building in the Special Flood Hazard Area must have insurance for the flood risk. In Richmond, most of the structures in the Special Flood Hazard Area as identified on the new map do not have flood insurance and would benefit by immediately securing insurance.

The Town of Richmond has reached out to people in the area of change to inform them of their need to get insurance.  Affected residents who wish to obtain grandfathered status and rates should not delay. Flood insurance must be paid, processed and in effect by August 4th in order to achieve grandfathered status.

Friday, May 16, 2014

CRS Webinar Trainings Available

The CRS offers webinars and workshops to help communities with their CRS requirements. If you are interested in having a webinar on the 2013 Coordinator’s Manual, the FEMA Elevation Certificate, or any other activity, contact your ISO/CRS Specialist. The following one-hour topical webinars are on the calendar, and others can be scheduled as needed. Many of these will be recorded, so they can be accessed later.

Registration is free, but required, as space is limited. Some courses provide continuing education credits for Certified Floodplain Managers (CFMs). For more details and to register, go to
            All webinars begin at 1:00 pm EST
--Introduction to the CRS— May 20, 2014; July 15, 2014; October 21, 2014; December 16, 2014
--Activity 430 (Higher Regulatory Standards)—  May 21, 2014
--Preparing for a Verification Visit with the 2013 Coordinator’s Manual—June 17, 2014; November 18, 2014
--Natural Floodplain Functions— June 18, 2014; August 20, 2014
--Activity 540 (Drainage System Maintenance) — July 16, 2014; September 17, 2014
--Preparing for the Annual CRS Recertification— August 19, 2014; September 16, 2014
--Developing Outreach Projects under Activity 330— October 22, 2014
--Activity 610 (Flood Warning and Response) — November 19, 2014
--Developing a Program for Public Information under Activity 330 or a Coverage Improvement Plan under Activity 370, and Using FloodSmart Tools— December 17, 2014
Some of the other webinars anticipated in 2014 and 2015 are
--CRS Credit for Mapping and Regulations: The 400 Series
--CRS Credit for Flood Damage Reduction: The 500 Series
--The CRS and Climate Change.

For more on the CRS webinar series, to register, and to obtain agendas and required materials, go to If you have questions about the CRS Webinar Series or suggestions for future topics, please contact

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Planning for Increasing Precipitation and Flooding

A recent article was published in the New York Times on 5/12/14 - "Looks Like Rain Again.  And Again."  In the article, the author cites past studies from 2 decades ago or earlier that predicted the changes in our climate that we are now living through, namely increased precipitation during storm events.  Long term climate data has shown that the Northeastern US has seen a dramatic increase in precipitation amounts falling during storm events.  And when there is an increase in the amount of rain or snow falling during a storm, it usually ends up resulting in a greater frequency of flooding in places that have traditionally acted as floodplains.  Another result may be that people may start to see areas that had very rarely flooded in the past flood on a somewhat regular basis.  Some of these thoughts and ideas can be seen in a New York Times blog post "Three Long Views of Life With Rising Seas" that contains 3 interviews focused on how humans may look to deal with impacts from sea level rise.

This isn't the first time that we have seen evidence of increasing precipitation in the Northeastern US.  If anyone reading this has been to one of our presentations to communities, you may have seen a graphic that was taken from a report that was released from the White House Council on Environmental Quality -"Progress Report of the Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force: Recommended Actions in Support of a National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy (10/2010)".  This report found that there had been a 67% increase in the amount of precipitation that was falling during the heaviest storm events each year.  That means that the biggest storm events that we experience each year is bringing more rain or snow on average.

I think that many Vermont communities have been experiencing this increase in precipitation and flooding first hand.  Some of you may already be aware of the ANR Flood Resilience Sharepoint website.  This website aims to include information that individuals and community officials can use to better prepare for the increased flooding and precipitation that we have been experiencing around the State and in New England.  This Sharepoint site will be replaced this summer by a collaborative website that will be called Flood Ready.  The intent of the Flood Ready website is to expand upon the information that can be found on the ANR Flood Resilience Sharepoint site and present it in a way that can be helpful to a wide range of users.

Have you been noticing changes in your own community?  What steps have you been taking to try to address this issue?