Leahy, Sanders, Welch: Vermont Nets $1.3 Million For Super-Size Culvert Under U.S. Route 7 In Brandon, In Latest Post-Irene Mitigation Grant From FEMA

(THURSDAY, July 7, 2016) – Many Vermonters saw the dramatic photos in 2011 documenting the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene. The Neshobe River overflowed and swept through downtown Brandon with such force that the flood closed the state highway and damaged several businesses and other structures.  [NOTE: Here are links to two YouTube videos of this flooding in Brandon:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LarR9JifsMQ   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8YBIVoai8-E  ]

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) said the State of Vermont, local officials and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are continuing to act on lessons learned from Irene’s devastation.  On Thursday they announced that the Town of Brandon has been awarded a Hazard Mitigation grant of $1,346,411 from FEMA to minimize damage from future storms.  The new grant will fund construction of a super-size culvert crossing under U.S. Route 7, and related work.  The new structure -- 278 feet long, 6 feet high and 12 feet wide -- will accept overflow from the river and help prevent overtopping of the existing bridge by the Neshobe River, as happened during Irene.

Installation of the culvert is needed not only to protect Brandon from future flood event, but also to facilitate the planned reconstruction of U.S. 7 through the town.  That road reconstruction will include new sidewalks and streetscaping, as well as undergrounding of utilities.  All of that work will be best undertaken after the new large stream crossing is installed. 

The FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) provides funding after a declared disaster to help communities to become more resilient.  Typical projects include buyouts of homes in flood-prone areas, replacement of undersized stream crossings, and building relocations, as well as planning, outreach and education.  The program is led by the State of Vermont, which, with the congressional support wielded by Leahy, Sanders and Welch, has been awarded more than $34 million in funding from the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program after Irene.  Much of that funding has gone to buy out homes in the most flood-prone areas, to restore flood plains, and to offer homeowners the opportunity to relocate to safer locations.  More than $10 million has also been proposed for municipal infrastructure projects, including the work in Brandon.

In a joint statement, Leahy, Sanders and Welch said:  “After seeing the devastation caused by Irene in Brandon and in towns throughout Vermont, we know the importance of this project.  We are pleased that Brandon and the State of Vermont are taking steps to plan ahead and to make the town safer and more resilient in future storms.”

Brandon Town Manager David Atherton said:  “The overflow structure will perform one of the most basic functions of government, the protection of people and property.  A safer, more flood-resilient downtown will be attractive to developers and merchants alike.  We are very grateful for the expeditious manner in which our application was acted upon, thanks to our congressional delegation.” 

“The DEMHS Mitigation Section has been working with Vermont communities since shortly after Irene to navigate the application process," DEMHS Director Christopher Herrick said.  "Allocations like this one for Brandon help ensure these cities and towns avoid some of the devastation they saw in that, and subsequent storms.” 

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