Living with high water

RUTLAND-News stories about flooding inVermont are legion. From the infamous Rutland Flood of 1895 to the Great Vermont Flood of 1927, betting on local streams reaching or surpassing the previous year's high water mark is somewhat of a local sport.

Among Vermont's most rascally rivers-at least when it comes to spilling its banks-is the 112-mile-long, north flowing Otter Creek.

Last week, several roads boarding the Otter Creek in Rutland and Addison counties were closed due to spring flooding. But the flooding-annoying to residents along the river-nevertheless reflects a new "live and let live approach" to flood management here in Vermont.

The Otter began flooding its banks a few weeks ago when multiple ice jams along the river (it's far bigger than the name "creek" implies) forced the river, in spots, into normally dry fields and woodlands, and into a few residential basements, too.

The annual spring flooding of the Otter Creek is the result of snowmelt from both the Green and Taconic mountain ranges.

In most places along the Otter Creek Valley, the last big March snowcover is rapidly disappearing. You didn't have to drive far around the valley to see "high water" and "road closed" signs.

Last week, flooding occurred near Proctor and Pittsford, including the creation of an island composed of the Pittsford Covered Bridge on Depot Street. Normally, dry farmland, near the Route 7 bridge in Salisbury, was also inundated by flood water.

In Middlebury, sections of Creek Road were also closed due to high water. Much of the flood waters could be seen last Wednesday as a vast frozen sheet covering farmland on both sides of the river.

A heavy volume of water has also been reported at the major falls in Center Rutland, Middlebury and Vergennes.

Despite the inconvenience of soggy local roads, flooding along the Otter Creek is an annual, expected occurrence.

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