May 5, 6:30 pm:
May 10, 7:00pm:
May 11, 2:00 pm:
May 12, 4:30 pm:
May 17, 5:30 pm:
May 31, 7:00 pm:
**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
National Endowment for the Arts
New England Grass Roots Environmental Fund
DEADLINE: Rolling (Seed Grant)
USDA Rural Development - Community Facility Loans
DEADLINE: Ongoing (contact USDA office)
Vermont Arts Council
DEADLINE: May 2, 2016
DEADLINE: May 4, 2016
Vermont Community Development Program
Vermont Community Foundation
DEADLINE: July 26 and October 11, 2016
May 25, 2016
DEADLINE: May 18 and August 17, 2016
Upcoming Grants will be a regular column in the WRC Newsletter, for a complete
For additional information about grant possibilities for your projects please contact Susan at
WRC Secures Ecosystem Restoration Program Grants
The WRC has obtained two grants from the State's Ecosystem Restoration Program: $6,050 to advance the Adams Brook Restoration project, which will restore the severely altered brook to a more natural condition, and $41,600 to implement North River Stream Geomorphic Assessment Phases 1 & 2, develop a River Corridor Management Plan, and develop implementation projects to protect, restore, and improve water related resources of the East Branch of the North River.
Following Tropical Storm Irene, bed armor treatments four to six feet deep were applied to 200 feet of Adams Brook in Newfane, resulting in significant damages to aquatic resources, which continue to exist more than four years later. A prior project assessed the stream geomorphology of 1,500 feet of Adams Brook and developed a conceptual restoration plan for the 200 feet of bed armor. This project will finalize design plans and establish cost estimates for the implementation phase of the project, which will remove bed armor and re-establish low- and high-flow channels.
Tropical Storm Irene caused extensive and severe damage in this watershed, demonstrating the need for conducting Stream Geomorphic Assessments, delineating fluvial erosion hazard areas for protection, and developing a Corridor Plan and project packets for watershed-scale and/or site specific river corridor protection and/or restoration projects. The WRC will conduct Phase 1 and Phase 2 Stream Geomorphic Assessments, develop a Corridor Plan, and develop five projects for approximately 8.6 miles of the North River mainstem, approximately 4.1 miles of major tributary Branch Brook, and 2.9 miles of Hager Brook and/or other tributaries in Halifax and Whitingham.
Zoning Administrator Brown Bag Lunch May 26
The WRC will host a brown bag lunch for Windham Region town Zoning Administrators, and Floodplain Administrators in towns with flood hazard area regulations but not other zoning. The meeting will be on Thursday May 26 at noon in the WRC conference room. The purpose is twofold; first, to invite discussion of what's happening in zoning in your town and nearby towns and have open discussion about activities and/or problems; and second, to identify potential topics for a future WRC training session on zoning administration and enforcement.
For more information, please contact John Bennett by email or phone (802) 257-4547, extension 110.
Parcel Data Updates Available for Region Towns
Towns in the Windham Region continue to update their parcel data, and WRC has been collecting that data to make it available to the public. More and more towns are having their parcel data updated on a regular basis; currently, nearly half of the Region's towns have parcel data that is three years old or less.
If you're wondering how to access the parcel data, WRC's parcel data web page
is a good place to start. WRC gathers parcel data from towns, processes it, and provides it to the Vermont Center for Geographic Information (VCGI), who then makes the data available to the public. That process can take several months, so you can request the most current data directly from WRC.
If you don't have GIS software, WRC makes available parcel boundaries in a Google Earth-compatible format (a KMZ file). These files can be downloaded from WRC's web site. Another way to access the boundary data is through the Vermont Agency of Natural Resource's on-line Natural Resource Atlas. Finally, several towns, including Brattleboro, Wilmington, Dover, Somerset, Weston, and Rockingham (and soon, Guilford) have their own on-line mapping applications, in which not just parcel boundaries, but owner information as well, can be accessed.
WRC Releases Region-wide Maps of Undeveloped Waters
The Windham Regional Commission has released a set of maps showing the status of undeveloped streams, rivers, lakes, and ponds across the entire Windham Region. These maps are culmination of work over the past five years, and bring together the results of three separate projects to identify undeveloped waters in the Region and classify them as to their conservation status and town plan land use district.
Besides these maps, products of this effort also include a detailed report and maps for just the southwestern two-thirds of the Windham Region (the Deerfield, North, Green, lower Connecticut, and lower West River watersheds), and a report for the northeastern third of the Region (Saxtons, Williams, upper Connecticut, and upper West River watersheds).
The maps and reports are available on WRC's publications page, windhamregional.org/publications. Larger scale maps, and maps of individual towns, are available upon request. Funding for this work was provided through Section 604(b) of the Federal Clean Water Act, administered by the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources.
Local Emergency Operations Plans (LEOP) Updates
It's that time of year again! WRC would like to remind you that the annual deadline for submitting your Local Emergency Operations Plans is May 1st. Please submit it to WRC Emergency Planner, Alyssa Sabetto, to ensure your town meets Emergency Relief and Assistance Fund and grant requirements. The 2016 base plan template includes a few modifications:
- (Planning Task #1)
- Mobile Home Parks have been added to the list of High Risk Populations. A link to registered mobile home parks in your community has been added to the LEOP Base Plan guidance document.
- A link to registered child care facilities in your community has been added to the LEOP Base Plan guidance document.
- Clarification has been added to the LEOP Base Plan guidance document to note that this section is reserved for high risk groups, not individuals.
- (Planning Task #2)
- Tier II sites have been added to the list of Major High Hazard and/or Vulnerable Sites List. For additional information about Tier II sites, please contact your Local Emergency Planning Committee: http://demhs.vermont.gov/programs/lepc
- (Planning Task #6)
- A check box has been added to each shelter so you can designate if pets are accepted at that particular shelter.
- American Red Cross phone numbers have been updated.
You can review and update the information you submitted for your 2015 LEOP, add the above modifications, adopt the updated plan, and submit it to me for your 2016 update. You can also use the new LEOP base plan. All LEOP materials are available here: http://demhs.vermont.gov/plans/local
I encourage you to include the new Appendix B7. This Appendix was a joint creation of our local LEPC-6, the Windham Disaster Animal Response Team (DART), and the Northeastern Director of the Humane Society, and it is meant to encourage consideration and planning for animals in municipalities by determining such things as where they can shelter, who can offer emergency veterinary care, and where there are animals at high risk during disasters. Inclusion of this and the other appendices will make your LEOP more useful during an emergency.
Please note that Certification of adoption of the LEOP can be done by any member of the selectboard as long as they have taken the required ICS 402 or ICS 100. Certification does not need to be a hand signature, a typed name is sufficient. Also, please make sure to list your contacts in order of priority for contact. During emergencies, the State Emergency Operations Center will initially try to contact the first listed individual - if they are unsuccessful, they will then attempt to reach the second individual, and finally try the third individual.
The Windham Wood Heat Initiative:
A Program Update
The Windham Wood Heat Initiative (WWH) formed in March 2015 to assist public schools and municipal buildings convert to heating with local, sustainable wood while addressing those buildings' energy efficiency and durability needs. Within the last year:
- WWH has assisted in successfully converting 2 public school buildings in Brattleboro (Academy School and Esteyville, a Windham SE Supervisory Union building) to modern wood heating systems, which will save an estimated 16,100 gallons of oil annually and generate an estimated $53,700 per year in positive economic benefits to the region.
- WWH has completed (or is currently in process of completing) pellet feasibility studies for 18 buildings. Many of these reports include thermal energy audits, identifying additional opportunities for energy conservation measures and cost savings.
- There are currently 18 buildings being considered for pellet and/or semi-dry chip conversion by 8 School Boards and 3 Town Selectboards.
- WWH has provided technical assistance to 3 schools with existing wood boilers to help optimize heating system performance.
- WWH organized a Wood Heat Forum in November 2015 and has met with numerous school boards and selectboards to discuss wood heat and the WWH program.
About Modern Wood Heat: Modern Wood Heat uses high-efficiency pellet or chip boilers to provide clean, reliable heat to buildings of all sizes, replacing oil or propane heating systems and receiving bulk deliveries for convenience. Wood pellets are made close to home, they support local jobs, and they retain energy spending 100% in local/regional economy. To learn more about advanced wood heat, please click here.
For more information about WWH or wood as a heat source, please contact Kim Smith at email@example.com
or call (802) 257-4547 ext. 108.
WRC Continues Outreach to NRC, Host Communities on Decommissioning Policy
The WRC has continued to reach out to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to proactively and substantively include host communities in its nuclear plant decommissioning policy rulemaking, and we've continued to reach out to our counterparts throughout the nation about the importance of engagement in this rulemaking and the need to plan for the eventual closure of power stations.
The NRC invited the WRC to provide its perspective on decommissioning policy at its Regulatory Information Conference held in Rockville, Maryland March 7-10. There were approximately 3,000 attendees at the conference, most of whom were from federal agencies, the nuclear industry, and foreign agencies. The WRC shared a panel with representatives from the NRC and the Nuclear Energy Institute. Our primary purpose was to present decommissioning from the perspective of a host region, and how that informs a policy perspective that may differ from that of the industry and its regulator. Our presentation and those of the other panelists are available here
In early April the WRC was invited to make a presentation at the 2016 Washington Policy Conference of the National Association of Development Organizations. The topic of the panel was Shifts in Energy Policy and Regulation, and our purpose was to explain the importance of understanding what policies govern decommissioning of power stations regardless of fuel type, and the particular importance of planning for the eventual closure of plants in rural communities where the generators are major employers and contributors to the fiscal well-being of host communities. Conference presentations are available here
The WRC also visited with staff of our federal delegation to discuss the NRC decommissioning rulemaking. Staff from Senator Durbin of Illinois and Senator Schumer of New York also attended. We discussed our proposal for host community engagement in the rulemaking, which also served as the basis for the first advisory opinion issued by the Vermont Nuclear Decommissioning Citizen Advisory Panel (see "Approved Advisory Opinions" at http://publicservice.vermont.gov/electric/ndcap
). We were later informed by Senator Leahy's staff that a provision had been added to an appropriations bill that directs the Secretary of Energy to survey previous energy plants that have shut down, how communities adapted, the opportunities and challenges facing these communities, and resources available to assist with the economic transition. If ultimately passed, the report would be submitted to the Senate Committee on Appropriations and the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources within 180 days of enactment. We appreciate the support we have received from our federal delegation!
Transportation Project Prioritization
The Windham Regional Transportation Committee has been evaluating and prioritizing transportation projects for more than 20 years based on an established evaluation process. The intent of the evaluation process is to determine how well projects correspond with the priorities established in the Regional Transportation Plan. In 2005, the state Transportation Bill (H.523) was passed requiring the Agency of Transportation (VTrans) to develop a project prioritization system to serve as a basis for the annual transportation capital programming process. This legislation included a requirement for VTrans to use RPC priorities as a criterion in the state prioritization system. The RPC modified the previously established regional project evaluation process based on VTrans guidance, and established regional priorities in the summer of 2005 for the FY 2007 capital programming process. The RPC has continued to prioritize projects annually in response to both Legislation and VTrans guidance ever since.
The two project priority lists that the Transportation Committee has been tasked to prioritized are the Town Highway Bridge Pre-Candidate list and the Capital Program Projects.
Town Highway Bridge Pre-Candidate
VTrans identifies 60 bridges state-wide that are its highest bridge priorities based on inspection report data and technical considerations. The Transportation Committee then evaluates the bridges within our region that are on this "top 60" list and ranks them along with other town highway bridges that have been identified by the Committee and member municipalities. The Transportation Committee may submit up to ten bridge projects for VTrans' consideration. Please note that there is no guarantee that any of the ten bridges will be selected by the state as a candidate project. The Committee's objective is to identify future bridge projects based mostly on qualitative assessment and some quantitative evaluation:
This prioritized list is a 20% factor of the overall weight when VTrans conducts its project priority assessment. Historically, WRC has had 2-3 bridges move from Pre-Candidate status to Candidate status.
Capital Program Projects
Under the VTrans Project Development process, once a project is in the Capital Program, it is then categorized as either a Candidate, Design & Engineering, or Front of the Book. The Transportation Committee receives a list of all state projects (roadway, paving, bike/ped, interstate, park & ride, traffic operations) in the region and is tasked with prioritizing these; within each group. Below are the criteria VTrans and the RPCs have agreed upon. Our Committee included the intermodal/transit link as an additional criteria factor.
- Level of safety of the project - Is there a high crash location in or near the project area; have there historically been any other safety concerns?
- Impact on congestion and mobility - This addresses the likelihood of the project reducing congestion and improving mobility.
- A link in the local, regional and/or state economy - How vital a link is the project on the local, regional and state levels? Factors for this priority included location of project, classification of the project, is it on the National Highway System network, and has it been addressed in other planning documents as a priority?
- Functional Importance to Natural, Cultural and Historic Resource Preservation - How significant is the project in one or all of these categories?
- Conformance to Town and Regional Plans and Local Support - Does the project conform to both Plans and is there local support for it?
- Intermodal Capacity/Transit Viability/Bike-Ped Accommodations - How does the project accommodate multi-modal activity?
This prioritized list is also a 20% factor of the overall weight when VTrans conducts its Project priority assessment. Following lengthy Committee meeting(s), both lists, Town Highway Pre-Candidate and Capital Program Projects, are completed and sent to VTrans in March and April.
Please contact Matt (x120) with any questions.
Engaging Towns in the State's Deliberations about the Sale of TransCanada Hydro Power Facilities on the Connecticut and Deerfield Rivers
When TransCanada announced in late March its intent to sell its holdings in New England, including its holdings on the Connecticut and Deerfield Rivers, we understood this was an important issue for 12 of our 27 towns where TransCanada owns property and has flowage rights: Brattleboro, Dummerston, Putney, Readsboro, Rockingham, Searsburg, Somerset, Stratton, Westminster, Whitingham, Wilmington and Vernon. According to the grand list data, TransCanada owns 20,344 acres in the Windham Region, which includes land and water/reservoirs (does not include flowage rights). The breakdown of TransCanada acreage in the Connecticut River and Deerfield River Basins is:
- Connecticut River Basin: 842 acres (does not include flowage rights)
- Deerfield River Basin: 19,502 acres (includes 2 reservoirs which total about 3,500 acres, so about 16,000 acres of land only)
The possibility that the State of Vermont might purchase TransCanada holdings could have major implications for these 12 towns including grand list and revenue impacts; land, water quality and ecological impacts; recreation, jobs and economic activity impacts; and for Searsburg and Somerset, town road maintenance impacts. To that end we have been making the case to the legislature and the Vermont Hydro Power Working Group established by the Governor that town voices must be heard in their deliberations. The WRC has not taken a position on the sale or the possibility of a state purchase.
The Windham Regional Commission solicited comments from its 12 towns that are home to TransCanada holdings on the Connecticut and Deerfield Rivers. This same survey was subsequently sent by the Northeastern Vermont Development Association, the Southern Windsor County Regional Planning Commission, and the Two Rivers-Ottauquechee Regional Commission to their affected towns. It is our hope that these comments will inform the Vermont Hydro Power Working Group and the legislature about the questions, perspectives, and concerns held by towns and town officials.
In developing and administering this survey we understood that the news that TransCanada intends to sell its holdings was still fresh, that towns may not have had time to deliberate upon the issues and arrive at a unified position about a potential state purchase, and that there may be diversity of opinion among officials in a given town. We also understood the Governor intended for the Hydro Power Working Group to make a recommendation to the legislature before the close of this legislative session. For these reasons we quickly solicited the positions of towns as well as those of individual town officials speaking only on their own behalf. Surveys were sent to town Selectboard and planning commission members, listers, town managers and administrators, and regional commissioners.
We have established a webpage dedicated to the TransCanada sale. We'll post information as we have it. Information posted thus far includes:
- Legislative testimony of the Windham Regional Commission
- The survey sent to towns and town officials
- A summary from each regional commission of the comments it received, and each response it received.
The webpage is located here.