Local groups to host flood prep workshops

BENNINGTON -- The Bennington County Regional Commission and One World Conservation Center will host two workshops this month that will cover a variety of flooding-related topics.

The first will take place on from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 8, at the One World Conservation Center on 413 Route 7 in Bennington, while the second will be from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Feb. 15, at Manchester Town Hall.

The talks will cover everything from flood hazard zone mapping changes, to projected premium increases under the National Flood Insurance Program, and the new flood resiliency element in town plans. According to a release from BCRC, the workshops are "designed to help homeowners and municipal officials understand the impacts of these changes and how to deal with them."

These workshops are free and open to the public, and are sponsored by BCRC and One World Conservation Center.

"The National Flood Insurance Program is changing," reads a press release from BCRC, "The governing law, known as the Biggert-Water Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012, will remove subsidies currently applied to flood insurance rates, causing some policyholders with buildings in the flood zones to see rate increases. Many Bennington County residents will be affected by these changes, as there are over a thousand buildings located in the revised flood hazard areas."

Ned Swanberg, flood hazard mapping coordinator with the State of Vermont will be at each workshop, in order to answer questions and concerns about the National Flood Insurance Program, how the new maps were developed, and key differences between the new and old maps.

The flood resiliency element, which will be required for all municipal and regional plans by July 1, "aims to encourage flood-resilient communities by avoiding new development in flood hazard zones, fluvial erosion areas, and river corridors, and through the protection and restoration of floodplain and upland forested areas. It will encourage flood emergency preparedness and response planning. This portion of the workshop was designed to help Planning Commissioners, Select Boards, and Zoning Administrators understand the new element and how to incorporate it into municipal plans," according to the release.

The Biggert-Water Flood Insurance Reform Act, which was named for its sponsors, Republican Judy Biggert of Illinois and Democrat Maxine Waters of California, passed through congress two years ago in an attempt to "make the federal flood insurance program more financially stable and bring insurance rates more in line with the real risk of flooding," according to a recent Associated Press report. However, the Senate passed on Thursday a bill that would delay the implementation of many aspects of Biggert-Water, notably the removed subsidies. It is currently unclear how the measure will fare in the House of Representatives, where a more modest group of changes to the bill are being considered. Under the 2012 law, many homeowners would gradually lose their flood insurance subsidies, and those who were allowed to keep them would not be able to pass the subsidies on when selling the home.

The BCRC serves 17 towns and villages in Bennington County, and, according to their website, "will work with and on behalf of those municipalities to build strong, resilient, and sustainable communities, to foster economic prosperity, and to promote a high quality of life for residents of the region."

The One World Conservation Center is a community-based non-profit organization that has "brought conservation information as well as nature programs and activities to area residents and students since its opening in 2009," according to its website.

Derek Carson can be reached for comment at dcarson@benningtonbanner.com. Follow him on Twitter @DerekCarsonBB


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