**All Committee Meetings take place in the WRC Conference Room unless otherwise noted.
**All meetings are subject to change, please check the website for updates.
UPCOMING GRANT OPPORTUNITIES
Vermont Recreational Trails Program
Working Lands Enterprise
Grant Application Period Opens October 1, 2015
Strong Communities, Better Connections (VTrans & DHCA)
DEADLINE: Jan. 16, 2016
USDA Rural Development - Community Facility Loans
DEADLINE: Ongoing (contact USDA office)
New England Grass Roots Environmental Fund
DEADLINE: Rolling (Seed Grant)
Vermont Community Development Program
Vermont Community Foundation
DEADLINE: Dec. 1, 2015
Upcoming Grants will be a regular column in the WRC Newsletter, for a complete list please click here.
For additional information about grant possibilities for your projects please contact Susan at
Advanced Wood Pellet Boiler Forum
Advanced wood pellet boilers are low emission, high efficiency systems that provide much of the convenience of traditional fossil fuel boilers-without the fossil fuels. Heating with locally sourced, sustainably harvested, and renewable wood pellets provides numerous environmental, economic, and social benefits. These boilers come in a wide range of sizes adaptable for residences as well as large commercial operations. The Windham Wood Heat Initiative (WWH) will hold a free public information forum on advanced wood pellet boilers on November 16 from 5:30 - 7:30 pm at the Marlboro College Graduate Center in Brattleboro.
Eight Windham Region towns apply for Municipal Planning Grants
Eight region towns developed and submitted applications for state Municipal Planning Grants with WRC assistance. The towns and topics are: Athens to develop its first, approvable, Town Plan; Brookline for a Town Plan update; Dummerston for a Town Plan update, including flood resilience plan; Guilford for consultant assistance with Conservation Commission natural resources inventory; Londonderry for a Town Plan update addressing numerous issues; Newfane for a Town Plan update; Vernon for a Town Plan update for post-VY closure planning update and flood resilience plan; and Windham for Zoning Bylaw update to implement the recently updated Town Plan's recommendations. Click here
to view a full list of all the MPG applications that were received.
Hazardous Chemicals Reporting and Filing
Have you ever wondered where in your community that hazardous chemicals are located? The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA)
of 1986 was created to help communities plan for emergencies involving hazardous substances. EPCRA requires hazardous chemical emergency planning by federal, state and local governments, Indian tribes, and industry. It also requires industry to annual file a "Tier II" report on the storage, use and releases of hazardous chemicals to federal, state, and local governments, including the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC). Emergency Planner and LEPC-6 Secretary, Alyssa Sabetto, collects this information and keeps record of it for the LEPC. These reports are public documents. Alyssa plans to work with the LEPC-6 to develop an updatable database for keeping track of Tier II reports/entities; map Tier II locations to make this information visual for better understanding of risk; update the LEPC-6 Hazardous Materials Plan; and go after training for the LEPC-6 about the proper storage, handling and emergency response protocol for chemical spills. The LEPC would like to encourage Tier II reporting agencies and private companies to join the LEPC-6. Any questions, and to join the LEPC-6, please contact Alyssa Sabetto at
802-257-4547 ext. 109.
Natural Resources Committee to Respond to the Silvio O Conte National Wildlife Refuge's Comprehensive Conservation Plan
The Natural Resources Committee is developing a comment letter that responds to the Silvio O. Conte National Wildlife Refuge draft Comprehensive Conservation Plan ahead of the November 16 public comment deadline. The draft outlines four alternatives ranging from continuing current management strategies to seeking to expand the Refuge and recreational opportunities by as much as 135,000 acres. Within the Windham Region specifically, the Plan proposes to designate and conserve a 22,000-acre Conservation Focus Area in the West River watershed, identified as being a contiguous block of northern hardwood forest and important for interior forest birds. The Natural Resources Committee will recommend that these lands be protected through conservation easements rather than fee ownership in order to preserve the tax base for towns. For additional information about the Plan or submitting your own comments, please contact Kim Smith at (802) 257-4547 ext. 108.
New Aerial Photos
of the Region
GIS users will now have a new set of aerial photographs at their disposal. The Vermont Center for Geographic Information is in the process of making available a new set of orthophotos (a specific type of aerial photograph that can be used for mapping) of Windham and Bennington Counties that were taken in Spring 2015. Our previous sets of photos were taken in 2010 and were only available in black and white. The 2015 series is available in black and white, color, and color infra-red. More information on how to access these photos will be available soon. Contact Jeff Nugent for more information.
"Forest Strong" was the message from Michael Snyder, Commissioner of Vermont Forests, Park and Recreation, to a crowd of over 50 people gathered at the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center (BMAC) on Thursday, October 22nd. Windham Regional Commission's (WRC) working group on forest economy organized a panel discussion, Local Wood Local Good, as part of the BMAC's exhibit Shedding the Light on the Working Forest. The panel brought together representatives of forestry-related businesses to discuss how to develop markets for local wood products. The panel was moderated by Susan McMahon, WRC's Associate Director.
Commissioner Snyder discussed that he sees southeastern Vermont forestry as a real economic opportunity because of the high quality hardwood forests, two successful large-scale sawmills and strong pride of place. The Windham Wood Heat program will utilize the low-grade wood and help make southeastern Vermont forests healthier. Commissioner Snyder explained that the region and the state do have challenges such as invasive plants and insects, failed regeneration due to over browsing of trees, and the aging of landowners and the forest workforce. However, he provided some strategies to make the forest economy stronger such as improved tax strategy, carbon credits, education and outreach and changing of Vermont policies that relate to forestry. The audience offered hearty applause when the high quality of the Windham Region's woodlands was mentioned.
Lynn Levine, consulting forester for Forest*Care explained what the Vermont Current Use program, also known as Use Value Appraisal, does for our local forest economy. This led to a lively discussion with audience members about the purpose and perception of the Current Use Program. Ward Mann, Allard Lumber's Procurement Forester, expanded the discussion on the impact of forestry on the local economy and explained that between the Allard Lumber Company and Cersosimo Industries they have approximately 350 employees. He also estimated that the Windham Region's forest economy generates annually $170 million in local economic activity.
Susan McMahon explained to Jack Manix, owner of Walker Farm and Elysian Hills Tree Farm, that there is agricultural envy and asked how forestry can be part of the "localvore" movement. Jack felt it was important for people to ask themselves "where does your wood come from." Eli Gould, Ironwood Brand, concurred and talked about how to incorporate local wood in building projects and exciting new wood science technology that could potentially outperform steel structural elements in building systems. Peggy Farabaugh, Vermont Wood Studios, talked about the market for fine wood crafts such as furniture and efforts to make Vermont the source for fine wood furniture.
The Windham Regional Commission will be holding a meeting in January 2016 to discuss specific actions to make our forest and forest economy stronger. Contact Susan McMahon, email@example.com
, if interested in being involved.
WRC Receives $500,000 from the U.S. EPA for Brownfields Revolving Loan Fund!
The WRC is pleased to announce that they have received $500,000 in supplemental funding to recapitalize the Windham Region Brownfields Reuse Initiative (WRBRI) Revolving Loan Fund (RLF). This funding was recently awarded from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to 31 successful RLF grantees as part of approximately $13.2 million in supplemental funding to help transform communities by cleaning up contaminated Brownfields properties.
"These funds - granted to communities who have already achieved success in their work to clean up and redevelop brownfields - will help boost local economies, create local jobs and protect people from harmful pollution by expediting Brownfield projects," said Mathy Stanislaus, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response. "The RLF supplemental recipients are some of the nation's top performers. Collectively, these communities have already leveraged more than $5 billion in clean up and redevelopment investment."
Established in 2011, the Windham Region Brownfields Reuse Initiative Revolving Loan Fund provides loans and grants to facilitate cleanup of contaminated properties (Brownfields). The purpose of this program is to assist in the revitalization of these properties to promote jobs and a cleaner environment in the WRC Region. It is intended that these loans and grants fill funding gaps for cleanup and ultimate redevelopment of Brownfields. Loan funds are available to public, private and nonprofits and grants are available to municipalities and nonprofits. When these loans are repaid, the loan amount is then returned to the fund and re-loaned to other borrowers, providing an ongoing sustainable source of capital for additional cleanup of brownfield sites.
To date the WRBRI-RLF has provided $227,100 in loans and $420,437 on grants to six brownfields clean up and redevelopment projects in the Region. The supplemental funding has come at a great time to allow the WRC to continue to assist public and private entities with clean up of these contaminated sites. For more information about WRC's Brownfields program contact Susan McMahon (firstname.lastname@example.org
. or 275-4547 x114).
Land Management Workshop a Success!
The paradigm of how to manage lands in flood- and erosion-prone lands has shifted. An old method, to channelize and straighten waterways (which move storm water runoff downstream quickly) exacerbates high-energy flooding and associated property damage. But an increased understanding of river dynamics combined with first-hand experience has revealed that there is a better way: give rivers room to move and reconnect them with their floodplains. Landowners, municipal officials, and other interested individuals gathered at the Grafton Elementary School on Saturday, October 17 for a workshop co-organized by the WRC to discuss these issues. Presentations, a stream table demonstration, and a field trip to a local landowners' property collectively drove home the point that effective flood resiliency will require a greater public awareness of how water moves through a landscape and a new set of land management practices.
Among the presenters at the workshop were representatives from the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources Watershed Management Division (WSMD), the Connecticut River Watershed Council, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Vermont River Conservancy.
This workshop was the first public activity supported by a grant from the High Meadows Fund to the Saxtons River Watershed Collaborative (SRWC) to address flood resiliency at a watershed-scale. As part of the 18-month grant, the SRWC will conduct a series of public education, land conservation, and riverbank restoration projects in the towns of Westminster, Rockingham, Grafton, and Windham. It is the hope that the HMF grant serves as a catalyst for supporting long-term partnerships and resiliency-thinking in these communities. Just in the first two months we are already seeing some very exciting synergies and partnerships coming together with other projects in the Saxtons River Watershed.
If you are interested in learning more about or participating in the work of the Saxtons River Watershed Collaborative, please contact Kim Smith at email@example.com
or (802) 257-4547 ext. 108. More information on the High Meadows Fund initiative can be found here
Jim Roberts, landowner (front left) and Chuck Armstrong (front right) explain various conservation practices during the workshop's afternoon field session.
Southern Windham COAD Kicks Off
The Southern Windham Community Organizations Active in Disaster (SW COAD) met for a kick-off meeting on October 7th at Marlboro Elementary School. There was a good turnout for the meeting, and attendees included representatives from: CERT; the Windham County Sheriff's Office; several regional CARES groups; town officials from Grafton, Guilford, Westminster and Brattleboro; the Brattleboro Retreat; Vermont Disaster Animal Response Team (VDART); Senior Solutions; the MOOver; SEVCA; and United Way of Windham County. The meeting discussed what a COAD could do for southeastern Vermont, which is to put into place a framework to connect disaster response and recovery agencies before disasters happen, so that the framework can be activated when needed to coordinate response in an efficient fashion. The COAD would activate during a disaster to connect the agencies so that situational awareness information could be exchanged, needs can be conveyed between agencies, and resources can be efficiently dispersed and not wasted. COADs are effective elsewhere in the state and nationally. Upper Valley Strong COAD director Anne Goodrich spoke at the meeting about the experience of serving communities in the Upper Valley. Windham Regional Commission is providing staff support to the SW COAD. We are looking for more agencies, organizations, and businesses that want to join in and be connected to this effort. If you're interested in learning more please contact Alyssa Sabetto, at 257-4547 ext. 109 or firstname.lastname@example.org,
|Agency Of Natural Resources Announces Release of Draft Tactical Basin Plan for the West, Williams and Saxtons Rivers and Connecticut River and Tributaries
The Agency Of Natural Resources has released the draft Tactical Basin Plan for the West, Williams and Saxtons Rivers and Connecticut River and adjacent tributaries (Basins 11 and 13) for public comment.
The Tactical Basin Plan provides an overview of the health of the watersheds and a description of ongoing and future priority steps to restore and protect the quality of its surface waters. What makes this plan "tactical" is the reliance on comprehensive water quality monitoring and assessment information to develop high priority implementation actions and tasks that provide opportunities for all stakeholders in the Basin to pursue technical and financial support for water quality improvement.
Over 60 objectives are laid out for implementation over the next five years addressing monitoring needs, protection strategies and restoration projects throughout the three watersheds and Salmon, Canoe, Sacketts, East Putney, Chase, Fullam, Mill, and Morse Brooks and along the Connecticut River.
The draft plan can be obtained here
or to receive a printed copy of the draft plan call 802-885-8958. Meetings to gather public comment are being held in Chester, Londonderry and Newfane. Comments can also be submitted in writing to Marie Levesque Caduto, VT DEC, 100 Mineral St., Ste 303, Springfield, VT 05156 or Marie.Caduto@vermont.gov
. The deadline for submitting comments is November 30, 2015
Meeting Schedule: All meetings held 6:00-8:30pm
- November 10: Chester Town Office, 556 Elm St., Chester, VT
- November 17: Londonderry Town Office, 100 Old School Street, South Londonderry, VT
- November 23: Newfane Town Office, 555 Route 30, Newfane, VT
Strong Communities, Better Connections Grant Program
Applications Due December 18th
The Strong Communities, Better Connections Program (SCBC) is a multiagency partnership to align state and local investments to increase transportation options and build resilience and economic vitality in Vermont's community centers. The SCBC Program supports implementation-focused, municipal planning initiatives that:
- Coordinate land use decisions with transportation investments
- Advance the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Livability Principles;
- Support the State Planning Goals and the VTrans Vision and Strategic Plan Goals.
By providing resources and state assistance, the SCBC Program encourages communities to proactively coordinate land use decisions and transportation investments that build community resilience. The program goals are to:
- Provide more transportation choices
- Support Vermont's historic settlement pattern of compact village and urban centers separated by rural countryside
- Maximize efficiency for transportation infrastructure
- Support downtown and village economic development and revitalization efforts
- Provide safe and resilient transportation system that supports the Vermont economy
- Lead directly to project implementation
The pre-application deadline is December 18, 2015 and the Application deadline is January 15, 2016. Please click here for more information. Feel free to contact Jackie Cassino with VTrans at (802) 272.2368 or email@example.com or Richard Amore with the Department of Housing and Community Development at (802) 828.5229 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Comprehensive Energy Plan Comments due November 9
The Comprehensive Energy Plan is the driver of state energy policy and the implementation of that policy. This is not a plan that gathers dust on a shelf. It's constantly referenced. So if you're interested in the direction the state plans to take us across a broad range of energy issues, you need to be interested in this plan. Public comments are being accepted until November 9th. The plan and other related information is available on the Public Service Department website.
Energy has been a major interest of the Windham Regional Commission for a number of years. The Windham Regional Plan is somewhat unique in that energy is a thread across all sections: transportation, housing, natural resources, land use, economy. This is a carryover from our 2006 plan. At the time, more than 60 percent of our Commissioners identified energy as the number one priority for the development of the region and protection of its resources. This plan describes the current state of energy supplies and use in the Windham Region, the issues and concerns about the future of energy, and policies aimed at improving energy use or at least reducing the impact of potential challenges. It recognizes the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve efficiency, and support measures to reduce the high cost of energy in the state (3rd after Hawaii and Connecticut), have a sufficient and resilient supply of energy, and minimize the impact to our natural and scenic resources.
Because we have taken a comprehensive approach to energy planning for almost 10 years, we're supportive of the regional energy planning approach being advocated for by Public Service Department Commissioner Chris Recchia and Agency of Natural Resources Secretary Deb Markowitz. We urged the Governor's Energy Siting Commission to include regional energy planning among their recommendations, and we believe regional energy plans will be very useful the next time the Comprehensive Energy Plan is updated.
The Windham Region has considerable experience with both renewable and non-renewable energy development. We have the now-closed Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power station, and challenges related to timely decommissioning of that facility. We have major TransCanada-owned hydropower facilities on the Connecticut and Deerfield. We have the existing wind power installation and Searsburg and the permitted but not yet built Deerfield Wind facility. We have the permitted but not yet built Blue Heron Hydro retrofits on two flood control dams on the West River. And we have numerous solar installations throughout the region and others that have been permitted but not yet built. If we're not the leading region in renewable energy generation, we must be close. We also have the Southern Loop to facilitate transmission capacity and reliability. While the region has the capacity for additional energy development, it should be well-planned and sited in places where it makes sense for the people who live nearby and is compatible with our natural resources.