The Current November 2021
In 2016, as a result of catastrophic flooding along Lake Champlain and the Richelieu River in spring 2011, the governments of Canada and the United States instructed the International Joint Commission (IJC) to “fully explore the causes, impacts, risks and solutions to flooding in the Lake Champlain-Richelieu River basin.” The IJC established a Study Board to oversee the Study and provide recommendations. The IJC also established a Public Advisory Group to assist the Study Board with engaging the public over the course of the Study. The Public Advisory Group publishes this bimonthly newsletter to help keep the public informed about the Lake Champlain Richelieu River (LCRR) flooding Study.
Letter from the Public Advisory Group Co-Chairs
As the study moves into its final phase, with a planned conclusion in March 2022, public meetings will be held this winter to provide an opportunity for residents, business owners, interest groups and others to learn about the final pieces of research and planned recommendations to address flooding in the basin.
We are also happy to provide you with a brief look at the work that is being carried out with respect to best practices in floodplain management, including principles and policy tools that could be implemented in the Lake-Champlain-Richelieu River Basin.
Madeleine Papineau, Canadian Co-Chair Kristine Stepenuck, US Co-Chair
As we have for the last year and a half, the study team continues to adjust to the realities of the pandemic, and that extends to plans for the final public meetings. The Study Board is formulating its strategy for conducting its final stakeholder and public consultations keeping in mind the need to maximize accessibility for those willing to participate. Public meetings will be held in winter 2022 in a format that will fit within current health measures and travel restrictions in both countries.
Our goal is to provide information to as broad an audience as possible in as safe and responsible a manner as possible. Whether that means in-person with masks and social distancing, virtual only, or a hybrid approach is still to be decided, and we will follow the guidance of federal, state and local health experts.
While in-person meetings are preferred, the success of prior virtual meetings during the pandemic is encouraging that such programs can work well.
If you have attended any of our past events and provided your name and email, we will be in touch to invite you directly to our winter meetings and provide more details as they are available. If you would like to be updated but haven’t yet provided us with your email, please do so at ijc.org/lcrr.
Flood Plain Management
Over the last several months, the Study has sought out expert assistance in investigating best practices related to floodplain management. The study has produced four white papers on the topic of floodplain management around the following topics: improved flood-risk communications; enhanced floodplain mapping; improving resilience through floodplain management strategies; and improving resilience through policy tools around insurance programs. The findings in these four papers are being integrated into a flood risk management strategy paper that will be released by the study later this fall and will be available on the LCRR website.
Here are some of the proposed ideas you can expect to see in the integrated floodplain management report:
- Creating flood risks maps for targeted audiences with the appropriate level of detail for each of them and to update the flood risk maps regularly.
- Investigating the state of flood insurance and look into a promising layered arrangement to share financial liability and motivate flood insurance purchases.
- Looking into innovative ways to shield existing development in high-risk flood zones
- Updating land use regulations based on flood risk
- Adopting best practices for effective campaigns and messages for flood risk communication.
In this issue, we look at the Performance Indicator for the Least Bittern, a small heron adapted for life in dense marshes that nests in the Lake Champlain – Richelieu River basin.
Least Bitterns are designated as vulnerable species in Quebec, are considered threatened in New York State, and are a Species of Special Concern in Vermont. The LCRR Flood Study team, with support from Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), looked at the impacts of fluctuating water levels on the birds.
Significant increases in water levels during the nesting season of late May through the end of June can drown eggs and chicks, while a sharp decrease in water levels leaves the nest vulnerable to ground predators and increases the rate of nest abandonment.
Canada has designated three sites along Lake Champlain as critical habitat for the Least Bittern, and protecting those areas is considered essential to the survival and recovery of the species in Canada.
The PAG (Public Advisory Group)
To ensure our messaging resonated with the broader public, the study works closely with community members who volunteer their time on the Public Advisory Group, or PAG. The 12 members of the PAG include individuals from Canada and the United States throughout the watershed study area. We introduce you to two members in this issue of The Current.
Phil Von Bargen has a long-standing connection with the Lake Champlain Basin Region as a municipal land use planner and resident of the area for more than 50 years. His professional background and personal interest in earth and environmental sciences were a natural fit for his participation on the PAG, and he has many years of public involvement on various projects — an essential part of his decades-long career.
For much of the last decade, Frederic Chouinard has considered flooding in the Lake Champlain basin a priority as project manager at the Organisme de bassin versant de la baie Missisquoi (OBVBM) (Missisquoi Bay Basin Organisation). Frederic authored a chapter on flooding in the Plan directeur de l'eau (Master water plan), for the Missisquoi Bay basin (www.obvbm.org/pde). But his experience in the basin is more than just professional, as he moved to the region in the spring of 2011 and saw the impacts of flooding on his neighbors in Venise-en-Quebec.
On the Web
Stay updated on the Study Board’s work by signing up to receive electronic updates via our email distribution list. Click on our home page (https://www.ijc.org/en/lcrr) and scroll to the bottom to join.