Assistance, Resilience, Mitigation
By Michael J Caduto
Aerial photo map indicating where growing space at Sustainable Woodstock’s Community Garden at Billings Farm has been impacted in recent flooding by Barnard Brook, and where space will be lost during the upcoming riparian buffer restoration project (top). An equal amount of garden space will be added away from Barnard Brook (bottom).”
In 2009 Sustainable Woodstock formed as a grassroots response to concerns about fighting climate change. This work remains at the heart of our mission and the focus of many of our initiatives and educational programs throughout Woodstock, the Upper Valley and beyond—from promoting community solar and net-zero building designs and helping municipal buildings and households adopt energy-efficiencies, to producing our Climate Change & Sustainability Film Series. We are dedicated to providing equal energy opportunities for individuals and households from all backgrounds and economic means.
The consequences of inaction are dire and immediate. From flash floods to epic fires, the impacts of global warming are unpredictable and multifarious. The catastrophic flooding on July 11-13 has been dubbed by the National Weather Service as the Great Vermont Flood of 2023. Over this two-day period, some parts of Vermont received more than 9 inches of rain, washing out roads and bridges and flooding homes, cities, villages and farms. Damage in some places exceeded that done by Tropical Storm Irene in August 2011. In order to find a storm whose impact was worse than these two recent meteorological maelstroms, one has to go back to the Great Flood of November 3-4, 1927.
By delaying climate action for decades, humans have created an environmental Hydra; as soon as we address one climate-related issue, two more seem to rear their heads and require immediate response and funding to pay for the damage. The only way to truly defeat this foe once and for all is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And it will take every one of us, working together, to do so.
But addressing the complex and dynamic problem of global warming also requires working to prepare communities for weathering the next storm, and for recovering from the damage and disruptions to human lives and the environment caused by floods, fires and other climate change-driven events. Lending a helping ARM to fight climate change and its impacts is at the core of what Sustainable Woodstock does: Assistance, Resilience and Mitigation. Here are a few examples:
• Assistance: Riverside Mobile Home Park in the west side of Woodstock was again hit by flooding from the Ottauquechee River this summer, which removed a significant amount of riverbank and sheeted across the entire community. Fortunately, due to the rapid response of Woodstock’s emergency services staff and the management of Riverside Park, residents were safely evacuated. In the immediate aftermath of the flood, just as we did following Tropical Storm Irene, Sustainable Woodstock reached out to residents in a recovery effort led by Program Director Jenevra Wetmore. In the ensuing weeks, SW staff and volunteers removed damaged skirting and insulation from underneath the homes and power-washed away the silt, mud and debris left by floodwaters. An electrician was brought in to inspect junction boxes and other connections for damage. We still need to replace insulation, heat tape, vapor barrier and install new insulated skirting under each home before cold weather arrives. The total cost will be $64,795, with $47,295 still needed. (Funding has been raised to date from Upper Valley Strong, Vermont Community Foundation and the HUB 2023 Flood Relief Fund.)
• Resilience: When recent flooding struck, Sustainable Woodstock was already two years into a major project to make our Community Garden at Billings Farm more resilient by designing and implementing a buffer restoration project where Barnard Brook had eroded up to the split rail fence posts on one corner of the garden. The recent flood surge, however, completely undermined the riverbank and carried away nearly ten feet of the garden, which includes a portion of the 800 sq-ft of growing space where we produce vegetables for the Woodstock Community Food Shelf and Upper Valley Haven. This garden, along with its companion garden at King Farm, services 30 growers. We are now working to expand the garden on the side away from the river to replace the growing area being lost due to flood damage (see accompanying map). This project will cost $11,571, with $5,000 being raised to date from the Vermont Community Foundation. (You can view the collapsed corner of the community garden in this video on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/shorts/oqdMy4R7VNI)
• Mitigation: Sustainable Woodstock works with many partners to prevent and reduce the emission of the greenhouse gases that are driving climate change—from co-leading the effort to build Green Mountain Power’s first community solar array at Rainbow Playschool to procuring solar credits to offset electricity used by Woodstock’s municipal buildings. We partnered with the Intermunicipal Regional Energy Coordinator (IREC)/Two Rivers-Ottauquechee Regional Commission in leading the way for the Town of Woodstock to adopt energy conservation projects (heat pumps, LED lighting, etc.) for completion by an energy services company called EEI (Energy Efficient Investments). These projects will cut Woodstock’s propane use by some 10,000 gallons/year, thus reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 12.5%—all at significant annual savings to the town. We played a support role in Union Arena’s successful, years-long creation of the first net-zero ice arena in the United States and worked with Woodstock’s Emergency Services staff, Town officials, Efficiency Vermont and the IREC to design and construct the new Philip B. Swanson Public Safety Facility to be net-zero-ready for energy. Toward this end, the building includes a low-temperature electrical heating system in conjunction with highly-efficient insulation and air-to-water heat pumps with thermal storage using a phase-change medium.
Sustainable Woodstock is now serving on the Sustainability Group that is working with engineers to design the energy systems in the new Woodstock Union High School and Middle School. We are facilitating engineering consultation with Efficiency Vermont and advocating for the new building to be net-zero for energy. In a related effort SW is coordinating with the Communications Group for the new school, including students, in order to educate and inspire a public commitment to a net-zero building.
It takes a strong community network of individuals and organizations to address climate change. Sustainable Woodstock works in close collaboration with numerous partners, including: Efficiency Vermont, HUB (formerly Woodstock Area Relief Fund), energy contractors, Town & Village of Woodstock, VT Agency of Natural Resources, Vermont Department of Health and numerous community partners, including Ottauquechee Health Foundation, Vital Communities, Two Rivers-Ottauquechee Regional Commission (TRORC), Neighborworks of Western Vermont, COVER Home Repair, SEVCA (Southeastern Vermont Community Action), Woodstock Community Food Shelf, Upper Valley Haven, Billings Farm & Museum, Woodstock Inn & Resort and our dedicated team of volunteers, who make it all possible.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
- Get involved in local and regional actions to assist those impacted by recent flooding, and to mitigate climate change through your energy committee or commission. Sustainable Woodstock’s Energy and Transportation action group meets on the first Tuesday of each month at 6 PM, over zoom. For more information contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Attend meetings of your local Select Board, Trustees and other governing bodies to let them know that you support meeting local, regional and statewide climate goals.
- Learn what can be done at the state level through the Vermont Energy & Climate Action Network (https://vecan.net/) and Climate Action New Hampshire (https://www.facebook.com/ClimateActionNH/)