Local News

January 6, 2013

Adapting to extreme weather

Towns, villages plan for changing weather patterns


“We anticipate more frequent flooding, so it makes sense to think about culverts.”

Fully $1.4 million in damage happened during Irene in the towns of Keene and Jay just because of ruined, dislodged or clogged culverts. The small pipes running under roads are easily blocked by debris and can be dislodged and tossed like straws downriver.

Climate-change adaptation strategy here would incorporate cement-box culverts, for instance.

“The bigger culverts cost more money up front but have significantly lowered maintenance costs and they last longer,” Miller explained to APA commissioners.


The River Association survey found 70 percent of local roads are managed by towns and counties, not by the state or federal governments.

“So we asked the towns: ‘Where are your priorities? Do you know you’re going to put a cone in anticipating a flood?’”

To help pinpoint trouble areas, the River Association’s culvert maps were overlaid with the environmentally sensitive fish-passage maps to isolate the most critical areas.

Looking to lessons learned from the past year, Miller said, “Until tropical storm Irene, we didn’t think about sediment and debris. Before Irene, we were interested in thinking about fish passage.”

Their environmental science is being melded with a public-safety initiative, looking to find funding sources in a coordinated, science-based effort. 

Miller said it’s about finding the sweet spot “where a lot of different interests can come together that makes us resilient in terms of climate change.”

It would be a mistake to ignore the pattern of what’s going wrong in extreme weather, Stager said.

Towns, schools and counties planning future budgets might be well-met to anticipate weather damage, he suggested.

“A lot of our people and our infrastructure is in highly vulnerable places. The mistake would be pretending the problem is not there. It’s a fact-based reality.”

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