Living with high water

Vermont ecologist Mike Kline discussed the Green Mountain State's au naturel solutions to flooding, best seen along the Otter Creek. Kline appears on several websites including the Utne Reader and Miller-McCune.

"The best way to deal with erosion, flooding and all the other problems associated with out-of-control rivers wasn't to manage the river," he said. "Just give the river enough room to move, change and create its own floodplain, and then get the hell out of the way. If we leave the rivers alone, in a sense, they'll fix themselves," he said.

Environmental writer Ryan Blitstein also echoed Kline's comments about Vermont's approach to flood management on the Wild Green blogsite.

"Vermont, a state with a smaller population than the city of San Francisco's, has become a leader in the effort to reduce the costs of flooding through unconventional means: it's ripping out levees to let rivers flood naturally and provide towns with financial incentives to discourage building in floodplains," he said.

Among the more memorable Otter Creek floods in history was the deluge of April 16, 1895.

Rutland County was especially hard hit by the flooding that year. The creek rose from 10 to 15 feet above its normal level. Farm land between Rutland and Brandon was flooded and was described, by a Middlebury newspaper account of the event, as looking like "an inland sea as far as the eye can reach... (with) whitecaps caused by a heavy north wind... rolling in farm houses and gardens, while fences and stacks of hay and low land barns have been swept away, and some live stock drowned."

Paul Carnahan, librarian of the Vermont Historical Society in Montpelier, has seen the records of some of the worst flooding along Otter Creek-and elsewhere in in the state. He noted that the worse occurred not in spring but in the month of November in 1927.

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