The MRVPD is committed to ensuring the Mad River Valley is, and continues to be, a “welcoming community that builds a healthy and sustainable environment” (MRV Vision Statement).  

Creating and maintaining such a community requires that we properly value our natural resources, support them, and build resilience into all of our social, political, environmental, and economic systems. These goals can be accomplished through strategic and participatory hazard mitigation efforts, which also allow people to assess their community from a long-term perspective. Supporting the resilience of our communities and surrounding ecosystems also help to increase the capacity of diverse groups in the Mad River Valley to absorb inevitable shocks to the systems they participate in—an essential feature of a healthy community.

History of Flood Resilience in the Mad River Valley

Water is inherently a part of the community identity in the Mad River Valley, and throughout history communities that have taken root here have had to adapt to river that has carved out the place they call home.

The Mad River is aptly named given its pattern of unpredictability and destructive flooding, yet its beauty and the microclimate it provides has made this area an extremely desirable place to live. Therefore, residents have had to balance their needs with those of the river and surrounding environs, and have increasingly engaged in concentrated efforts to protect the watershed as well as increase resilience among the human communities in the Valley.


Historical Flood Events

Major flood events have frequently occurred in the Mad River Valley since 1798, causing significant destruction to agricultural activities and the built environment (R. Bisbee, History of the Town of Waitsfield, VT 1789-2000).

These events have been exacerbated by human activities such as deforestation, damming for the mill industry, agriculture, tourism and development.

The top five floods on record in the MRV are:

  1. November 1927--19.40 ft
  2. August 2011 (tropical Storm Irene)--19.06 ft
  3. September 1938--16.34 ft
  4. February 1981--14.45 ft
  5. June 1998--14.13 ft

(Source: USGS stream gage, River height, Moretown).


Tropical Storm Irene (August 28, 2011)

Tropical Storm Irene devastated the State of Vermont on August 28, 2011, having lasting impacts on many Vermont communities including the Mad River Valley.

Rainfall totaled ~4.5-5.7 inches in one day in the MRV, washing away dearly valued parts of our community (USGS Gauge, Moretown; FEMA, 2011). The costs for a small state were immense – about $63 million in insurance claims, $153 million in state and local costs, and a staggering $603 million in federal outlays (Flood Ready Vermont).

The destructive forces of Irene could not dampen the spirit nor energy of the Valley as the community united to weather the storm together and rebuild stronger than ever in its aftermath.

Residents created their own committees and funds to aid recovery efforts, and both state and federal funding was sought by the MRVPD on behalf of Valley Towns. These organizations included the Mad River Valley Community Fund, Mad River Flood Recovery Long-Term Recovery Committee, and countless hours of volunteer efforts.

To read more about Tropical Storm Irene in the Mad River Valley, explore It's a Mad River: A Look at Flooding in the MRV & the Evolution of River Management, a presentation by Joshua Schwartz and Caitrin Noel (Nov. 2011).