Home Commentary Letters Letters to the Editor, Aug. 9, 2023

Letters to the Editor, Aug. 9, 2023

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It’s Time to Reckon with the River

To the Editor:

I am proud of Vermont for staying strong during this relentless wet weather pattern and grateful for the outpouring of community support as we filter river sediment out of homes, yards, and businesses. But as we think about where to go from here, it’s time we reckon with the river and give it the space and protection it deserves. Rivers need more room to move and improved protections to support their dynamic natural systems. 

It’s time we recognize the stream in our backyard as part of a larger watershed system. The science of river process and function needs to form the foundation of our decision-making and policies, especially as we build back better. We should be guided by the knowledge of where the river begins and ends. How does it change through the seasons and with different weather patterns? How do the riparian plant species along the riverbanks provide habitat and shade? We should be able to identify and safeguard the spring seeps and contiguous wetlands that provide flood water storage and give the river the cold clean water that it needs to breathe. 

Our recent history of human settlement hasn’t always protected rivers in ways that maintain the natural, wild ecosystems that they are. We’ve prioritized using resources for immediate human benefits no matter how inequitable. Because now, when the rains fall and the waters rise, it’s apparent that many of us live and work too close to the banks for comfort. 

What if, rather than trying to out-engineer the weather, or evacuate and return in an endless cycle, we changed our relationship to the river, giving it space to move and shade to renew, reframing our thinking about where and how we live alongside it? 

We need state policies that support protection of freshwater systems, including safeguarding our river corridors from encroaching development. We must protect the riparian buffers along all rivers (tributaries and mainstems). Vegetated banks feed the river, support wildlife, stabilize erosion, filter and attenuate stormwater, and regulate temperature. We need policies that improve protection for our wetlands to mitigate, restore and enhance these vital systems for the future. 

Nature-based solutions to flooding are available at each river bend and every river bank. Supporting our ecosystem functions through policies that protect river corridors, riparian areas, and wetlands will keep our communities safe from repeated disasters and will keep our rivers clean.

Karina Dailey, Restoration Ecologist for the Vermont Natural Resources Council

Subsidize Elevation and Insurance

To the Editor:

Katrina did not destroy NOLA. The failure of the federal floodwalls and levees designed and built by the Army Corps of Engineers destroyed NOLA.

General Honore was not appointed for several weeks after the event. We know what you are going through, and these issues should have been addressed after Katrina. Subsidize elevation and insurance, get FEMA involved even in small disasters — force politicians to work with each other for the people or vote them out. Certainly more important than bogus cultural issues.

Cathy Cole Hightower, Metairie, Louisiana