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Rivers like to move and not just to ow downstream. Over &me, rivers and streams
move back and forth across the land, within a broader belt called a river corridor. Our
safety depends on giving rivers the room they need to move, by restoring oodplain
func%ons and protec%ng river corridors from development.


Corrie Miller, Friends of the Mad River | | 496-9127
Joshua Schwartz, Mad River Valley Planning District | | 496-7173
December 2016 River Corridors

River Corridors | Overview

Rivers naturally change course and move side to side over 4me. People o"en dislike it when they do,
because their movement may threaten property and infrastructure located nearby. Today, 75% of
Vermonts rivers are unstable and prone to severe ooding because weve historically tried to control their
ow. River corridors encompass the river channel and adjacent lands that are needed for a river to
naturally move around and now to recover and maintain their normal stability. When we build in river
corridors, we not only risk inunda.on ooding, but we also risk losing the land and structures when the
river decides to move. When we armor riverbanks to protect property, we speed up the river and risk
worse ooding and erosion downstream.

Letting rivers move freely is good for them and for us. Protecting
river corridors also protects lives, property, water quality, wildlife
habitat, and the economic value of the Mad River.

Communi'es looking to reduce ood vulnerability can protect land and discourage development in river
corridors, oodplains, wetlands and at the mouths of tributaries. But there are also ways to restore and
enhance river func%on. Read on for strategies that facilitate harmony in river corridors.

Protect and enhance river


Photo credits: Lars Gange/Manseld Heliight (cover); David Garten (p. 1); Friends of the Mad River (p.3); Richard
Czaplinski (page 4).

Ridge to River: A Mad River Valley Coali*on for Clean Water and Resilience

December 2016

River Corridors


Mad River Riparian Plan*ngs
Tropical Storm Irene stripped the Mad Rivers
River corridors and oodplains can absorb a banks of the vegeta&on and woody debris that
great deal of ooding and reduce risks to are vital for habitat, erosion control and ltering
downstream se,lements, but only if they are runo. In response, Friends of the Mad River
healthy and func-oning. Communi'es can (FMR) expanded its annual riparian buer
improve these cri)cal assets by enhancing plan%ng program in 2012. Working together with
vegetated riparian buers and wetlands, suppor&ve landowners, conserva&on partners,
restoring the natural ow of the river, and and dedicated volunteers, FMR planted more
planning for river corridors. than 2,000 trees at nine sites in the watershed.
Riparian vegeta,on slows ood waters, keeps
water cool for aqua(c wildlife, provides habitat
corridors for wildlife like bobcat and bear, lters
pollutants, and slows runo on its way to streams
and rivers. Wetlands can act like a sponge in a
ood, absorbing large volumes of oodwater.
Restoring buers and wetlands by plan%ng trees
and controlling invasive species can strengthen a
communitys ood resilience.

Municipali)es, the State, landowners, scien/sts,

and non-prot partners work together in the river Mad River Corridor Planning
corridor planning process to balance improved In 2007 and 2008, FMR, Vermonts Department of
river health with human needs. A geomorphic Environmental Conserva/on (DEC), and the
assessment examines water quality, habitat Towns of Waitseld and Warren worked together
value, and possible stressors to the system to dra' the Upper Mad River Corridor Plan. It
(natural and manmade). This assessment is used iden%es opportuni%es to reduce property and
to develop restora'on or mi'ga'on projects that infrastructure damage from ooding and erosion
can restore stability and reduce conicts between from broad, town wide approaches to restoring
the river and development. river func*on (like reducing stormwater runo) to
site-specic projects (like replacing culverts and
Past land uses and peoples a,empts to control widening bridges). In 2017, Moretown, Central
the river have worsened erosion and ooding and Vermont Regional Planning Commission, FMR,
caused some Mad River reaches to become and the DEC will begin developing a Lower Mad
unstable. River restora+on projects can address River Corridor Plan. They will collect data to
these problems, including stabilizing eroding inform an ac*on plan to be#er understand the
stream banks, removing berms and other river channels physical stability and habitat
constraints to oodplains, and helping the river condi&ons, the rivers ability to access the
access its oodplain. oodplain (or not), and problems like erosion
hazards and frequent sediment deposits.

Ridge to River: A Mad River Valley Coali*on for Clean Water and Resilience
River Corridors
Conserva)on Area, providing a safe place for the
river to release energy and deposit sediment
during a ood and for the public to access a
popular swim hole and trail network.
Protec%ng riparian land from future
development helps accommodate
Conservation and Corridor Easements
oodwaters and reduce damage to homes and
The Vermont Land Trust, as part of the Mad River
businesses. Buyouts and structure removal,
Watershed Conserva.on Partnership with FMR
conserva)on easements, and river corridor
and Mad River Valley Planning District, has
overlay districts create areas where the river can
permanently protected 345 acres (15%) of
release pressure, modera-ng the impacts of
oodplain along the Mad River and its tributaries
human se)lement.
with purchased or donated conserva,on
When a property is repeatedly ooded, costs can easements. This protects farmland, riparian
be huge for owners, communi*es, and the forest and town-owned sites along the Mad River.
government. Vermont and the Federal In 2012, long*me FMR board member Kinny
Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) use Perot worked with the Vermont River
voluntary buyout programs to purchase and Conservancy to donate the rst river corridor
convert ood-prone proper'es to open space. easement in the watershed, se)ng aside more
Landowners can donate or sell conserva)on than ve acres of riverside land for protec2on
easements that limit development and protect from future development. While benecial in any
the river system and community in perpetuity. A part of the river corridor, this easements loca4on
river corridor easement restricts development, just upstream of Waitseld Village oers some
ensuring the river can stabilize and move. defense to the Village during future events.

Municipali)es can also protect vulnerable land

and reduce downstream ooding with river
corridor zoning or Fluvial Erosion Hazard (FEH)
zones, which regulate new development and land
use within the corridor to protect infrastructure
and maintain or restore river func0on. These
zones complement FEMA oodplain and
oodway zones, which only iden)fy areas
vulnerable to inunda.on ooding. Zoning in the Mad River Valley
As an early phase of Fluvial Erosion Hazard (FEH)
Riverside Conservation Area in Warren overlay districts, Fayston adopted stream
regula'ons restric'ng development and
A"er the Flood of 1998 and again a"er Irene,
protec'ng from soil erosion in 2008. Then
several landowners transi'oned their ooded
Waitseld (in 2010) and Warren (in 2012) created
proper%es to the Town of Warren through a
FEH zones, led by local planning commissions.
FEMA buyout. The Town removed damaged
Now their river corridors are safer from risky
buildings, designated the land for public use, and
future development, and they are reducing
took on management and maintenance. One
impacts on communi,es downstream.
former home site became the Riverside

This series is Mad River Valley With support
produced by: from:
Planning District