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TRANSCRIPT: Governor Phil Scott Remarks on One Year Anniversary of July 2023 Flood

July 9, 2024

Montpelier, Vt. - At his weekly press conference today, Governor Phil Scott and officials provided an update on the State’s initial response and ongoing recovery efforts resulting from last summer’s catastrophic flooding in Vermont communities. He was joined by state and federal representatives, including Secretary of Natural Resources Julie Moore, who highlighted efforts underway to improve resiliency.

Click here for a one year lookback at the immediate impact and response, and mid and long-term recovery efforts.

GOVERNOR SCOTT: Good afternoon and thanks for being here.

One year ago today, the day before the intense rain began, I declared a state of emergency as we prepared for what was heading our way.

We activated the State Emergency Operations Center- with Emergency Management, the Department of Public Safety, Agency of Transportation, and many others, working to help towns across the state and remained activated 24/7 for many weeks.

We staged Swiftwater rescue teams throughout the state, who were ready to help with evacuations and rescues.


In the hours and days that followed, and as rain and landslides continued for weeks, our focus was on saving lives.

State and local employees, first responders, National Guard members, and Swiftwater rescue teams all stepped up to help the hardest hit communities. That included over 200 rescues and evacuating 70 residents from their homes.


We also saw Vermonters step up and help their neighbors. So many worked around the clock supporting their communities and helping those in need.

When the flood waters finally began to recede, and Vermonters were no longer stranded, we began the transition from life and safety to the early stages of recovery.

In many ways, this storm was different from Tropical Storm Irene in 2011. The day after Irene hit, we all woke up to the sun shining, and were able to assess the damage and get to work immediately.

As you remember, with last summer’s flood, we couldn’t do that in many areas because it didn’t stop raining.

Floodwaters continued to rise, and we saw landslides and washouts, which slowed our immediate response, and made clean up and recovery that much more challenging.


Seven days after the flood, President Biden approved our major disaster declaration, which brought more federal help and recovery funds.

I want to thank President Biden and our Congressional delegation for all the federal support.

I also want to thank General Roy, who leads the FEMA mission in the northeast, for all he and his team have done for Vermont. I know FEMA, like with any bureaucratic process with budget constraints, can be frustrating to navigate. But General Roy has been there every step of the way and has worked to help out in any way he can.


And while FEMA’s funds have been helpful, they don’t cover everything. So last year, my team got creative to fill some of the gaps.

When we realized many businesses were falling through the cracks. Secretary Kurrle and her team developed the Business Emergency Gap Assistance Program (BEGAP)- to provide $20 million in State funds- to help businesses, farms and non-profits make repairs and reopen, to get their employees back to work as soon as possible.

In total, BEGAP provided support to 553 businesses, with the average grant of about $36,500.


Another challenge we faced in the aftermath was the amount of debris we encountered and the ability to handle it varied widely from town to town.

Emergency Management helped towns navigate clean up, but we also pulled in Secretary Flynn and his team at the Agency of Transportation to support local efforts and remove flood debris across the state.

In total, about 6000 tons, or 12 million pounds, was picked up from the public right of way.

This is on top of what towns and private landowners did themselves.


There were also mobile home parks in Berlin and Johnson that were flooded, with many units condemned.

And what I learned during Irene is that mobile homeowners are responsible for removing their condemned units. So, with a donation from Subaru of New England, we stood up a program to deconstruct mobile homes- at no cost to homeowners.

And after learning many of the 44 condemned units wouldn’t be getting the maximum FEMA benefit, we used state funds to bring them up to that amount, giving out about $670,000-dollars.


As we reflect on how far we’ve come, the road to recovery is far from over. With Tropical Storm Irene, the last project was completed 12 years later- in the spring of 2023.

So it’s likely this recovery could take years, which means we have a long way to go getting people permanently housed, restoring floodplains, repairing damage, and revitalizing communities.

Hardening infrastructure and building back smarter will be key- especially as we continue to see stronger and more intense weather, which we’re seeing in the forecast for the next couple days. Commissioner Morrison will talk more about the storm and the steps we’re taking to prepare.

But, as we saw last year and as we’ve seen through adversity in the past, Vermonters are always willing to step up, and keep fighting, so I know, we’ll continue to show that we are Vermont Strong - and Tough too.

SECRETARY JULIE MOORE: Good afternoon, everyone.

I know I am not alone over the past few days in watching Hurricane Beryl devastate parts of Jamaica, Texas, and now continuing to chug across the continental US toward Vermont feels hauntingly familiar. Because we’ve already seen what happens when disaster strikes.

The July 2023 floods impacted thousands of Vermont homes and businesses, damaging municipal and state infrastructure, causing landslides, impacting river corridors, compromising dams, and creating a surge of flood trash and debris.

Last year, Eighteen public drinking water systems, affecting approximately 40,000 Vermonters, sustained significant impacts to their infrastructure or operation requiring boil water or do not drink notices. 33 of our 92 municipal wastewater facilities sustained damage totaling more than $75 million. Three facilities experienced catastrophic damage that will require extensive rebuilding and possible relocation. More than 80 landslides required a site visit by the Vermont Geological Survey.  The Spill Program received approximately 240 calls representing releases of hazardous materials or flooded aboveground storage tanks. Five DEC regulated dams breached and approximately 57 DEC regulated dams were overtopped. An estimated 25,000 tons of flood debris was brought to the Vermont landfill. Four state parks were temporarily closed due to damage. And hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage to state and municipal lands and recreational areas was sustained.

While the widespread damage from the July 2023 storms attracted significant national attention, the fact of the matter is that since 2010, Vermont has had 22 flood-related federal disaster declaration: nearly two per year. This is up from an average one every other year throughout the 60s, 70s, and 80s.

Given the increasing frequency and severity of climate-related events, we… all of us… need to actively work reduce risk and minimize future disruptions to drinking water and wastewater service and make strategic investments to adapt and ready Vermont’s homes, businesses, roads, bridges, and dams for current and future weather events.

And it isn’t just the in the built environment where change is needed – changing how we relate to the landscape, protecting intact floodplains, wetlands, and river corridors, is critical to both reducing damage and ensuring natural areas remain available wildlife and plants as they to look to weather our changing climate.

The good news is that not only is it possible to improve resiliency, work is well-underway across Vermont. Since Tropical Storm Irene in 2011, the State has consistently implemented programs and initiatives specifically designed to help us better withstand damaging floods.

Through protecting and restoring hundreds of acres of wetlands, floodplains, and river corridors, giving rivers more room to spill over their banks and release their energy when severe storms occur, because we know that over time, rivers connected to their floodplains become less prone to catastrophic flooding; purchasing easements on thousands of acres of forestland, ensuring the important role our woods play in helping to absorb rainwater, protect soil integrity and water quality, reduce flood intensity and offer critical habitat; utilizing a mix and state and federal funds to complete targeted buyouts of properties that have experienced repeated flood damage; and replacing flood damaged bridges and culverts with larger, flood resilient structures.

And since last year’s devastating floods, the Agency of Natural Resources has redoubled our efforts by deploying our team of river engineers and fisheries biologists who have provided thousands of hours of on-demand technical assistance to local foremen on how to repair flood damage; completing post-flood rapid damage screening inspections of nearly 400 dams throughout Vermont to identify storm-related damage. And then working with the Legislature this session to commit $5 million to a revolving low-cost loan fund to support dam owners in making necessary repairs; assessing dozens of active and potential landslide areas and providing advice to property owners about risk; continuing the long-term effort to support conservation and restoration of critical forest, floodplain and wetland areas to promote landscape-level resilience.

Unfortunately, adaptation takes time – we can’t simply snap our fingers and become resilient. So, in the coming years, it will be imperative to continue this on-the-ground work while concurrently working with partners to finish the Resiliency Implementation Strategy announced by the Governor and the Treasurer earlier this year that will draw in and improve on resilience work that is already underway, while also revealing to us the gaps where we fall short.

This coordinated approach will ensure that all the available scientific, technical, financial, and administrative tools are being used to maximum impact in navigating and adapting to the consequences of climate change as a State.

Advocating for federal policies and funding streams that allow us to not only “build back better” but allow us to “build better now” such as the Rural Recovery Act that Senator Welch is championing which would expand ANR’s essential partnership with USDA – Rural Development, helping ensure that immediate financial challenges following a disaster don’t perpetuate infrastructure vulnerabilities and increase long-term costs, but instead support our rural communities in implementing timely and durable solutions in the wake of natural disasters.

In closing, we can clearly say that more frequent and more severe storms are our new normal. The flooding last year brought back into focus our need to anticipate, prepare for, and respond to catastrophic disturbances. And the looming forecast of Beryl is providing a poignant reminder that there is no time to waste.

By in large understand the work that needs to be done, the investments that are required and the hard choices that need to be made to support Vermonters and Vermont communities in becoming more resilient.

In the context of a changing climate – one in which we are seeing more severe storms more often, extended periods of drought, heat waves both earlier in the summer and later in the fall, increased health risks from air pollution and disease – I want Vermonters to know Vermont is accelerating the work needed to better cope with, adapt to and effectively recover from a wider range of environmental conditions.