The Burlington Free Press has published a provocative article about the science of and the response to tropical storm Irene that should be required reading for community leaders on both sides of Lake Champlain.
Two key takeaways caught my eye. The first was the idea that storm-events approaching this magnitude could be far more common than we like to think. This from Candace Page’s article:
“Irene was the third catastrophic flood to devastate the southern half of Vermont in the 38 years since 1973, a frequency of once every 13 years,” Mike Kline, head of the state’s river management program, told the audience.
Global warming raises the likelihood of extreme weather events — warmer air, for example, can hold more moisture — added Pat Parenteau, a former Vermont commissioner of environmental conservation and a professor at the law school.
“Was Irene the storm of the century?” he asked. “More likely the storm of the decade.”
The second argument laid out here is that much of the “river management” response to Irene has been misguided, not because dredging and straightening rivers is environmentally questionable, but because it could make rivers less safe.
“Dig it out, make it fast and straight and deep, and we’ll be fine,” Kari Dolan of the state’s Ecosystem Restoration Program said, summing up one strain of public opinion.
Wrong, wrong, wrong, Kline and a suite of national experts told the conference: A river pushed around by man only becomes more dangerous.
Page’s article suggests that as much as 40% of the river dredging response to tropical storm Irene on the Vermont side of the lake “made our risk and vulnerability greater.”
Check out the full article here and chime in below. Comments welcome.