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Vermont Public’s weekly dose of all things environment.

Out There: No more outages?

This is the web version of our email newsletter, Out There! Sign up to get our bi-weekly dose of all things environment — from creatures you might encounter on your next stroll, to a critical look at the state's energy transition, plus ways to take part in community science and a roundup of local outdoor events.

It’s Thursday, November 2. Happy snow! Here’s what’s on deck:

  • Spawning salmon
  • Pride hike
  • Endangered turtles

But first,

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Vermont Public's biweekly dose of all things environment.


Guarding the grid against future storms

Power lines outlined in electric blue against a blue sky background. In the upper right corner, small lightning bolts are drawn. In the foreground, a worker works on the powerlines.
Photo by Toby Talbot / AP, Graphic by Sophie Stephens / Vermont Public
Storm damage in the past year cost Green Mountain Power $45 million in repairs. That’s nearly 40% of the costs they’ve had from storms in the past 10 years.

Last December, two winter storms, about a week apart, caused over $20 million in damages to lines operated by Green Mountain Power, the state’s largest utility, and left nearly 100,000 homes without electricity.

Last month, GMP announced that by 2030, outages like this will be a thing of the past. That timeline hinges on the utility getting approval from the state to spend up to $280 million over the next few years on infrastructure upgrades.

  • 👷 What GMP is proposing: The bulk of the money they would spend — up to $250 million — would go toward burying power lines in rural areas and insulating “main feeder lines” — the power lines that come out of substations, so they could better withstand tree falls. The remaining $30 million would be used to purchase batteries for the most rural customers in central and southern Vermont.
  • 💰 Who will pay for upgrades: GMP says it will only recoup these costs from customers when the projects are complete. That could be as soon as October of 2025, if the utility gets the green light. 
  • 📈 How this could affect rates: In a filing to the Public Utilities Commission, GMP said paying for this investment “would not exceed an annual 2% rate impact.” But the utility argues not doing this work to safeguard the grid could be just as expensive. Paying for storm damage from the past year alone “will add approximately 2.3% to rates over the next three years,” according to the filing.
  • 💸 Other funding sources: There’s a lot of federal money on the table to make the nation’s energy grid more resilient. GMP says it’s already submitted an application for $68 million to do some of this work. And a representative pointed out that as more people use more electricity, rates go down. That could help offset this big investment too.
  • 💡 How realistic is zero outages? An outside energy analyst doesn’t think it’s possible to get to zero outages whatsoever. But he thinks getting pretty darn close is definitely possible.

In other news

🚵 A state-long bike corridor along Route 5: Right now it’s just a pipe dream, but the Agency of Transportation is currently asking towns and regional planners along the eastern side of the state if they would be interested in working together to create a bike-friendly route along almost 200 miles of road from Massachusetts to Quebec. But don’t start planning your bike trip yet, even if the project goes forward, a state planner says a combination of bike lanes and off-road paths extending the length of Route 5 would take more than a decade to complete.

Another big infrastructure proposal along state roads: This one is an underground cable along the top 50 miles of Vermont’s border with New Hampshire. It would connect electricity generated from hydropower in Quebec to transmission lines in Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island that are operated by National Grid. The federal government said it would back the plan as part of a push to add capacity to the grid – it’s one of three projects that’s getting a combined $1.3 billion. As NHPR reports, the project still has lots of hurdles to clear.

🐟 Record year for salmon: Researchers counted 190 of the fish at the Winooski One Dam, as of last week – that’s more salmon than they’ve seen since first keeping track in 1993. Biologists think the fish are thriving thanks to fewer sea lamprey in Lake Champlain. They’re a parasite that can latch onto salmon and eventually kill them. All of the salmon that reach the Winooski dam will get a ride with biologists past several dams up to a tributary in Richmond, where they can reproduce, then return to the lake.

In your backyard

An illustration of brown turtles with flat, round backs, with text in colorful boxes and "Spiny softshell turtles" up top.
Laura Nakasaka
Vermont Public
These turtles are just starting to hibernate this time of year. They often choose the same place every winter, where they’ll often stay through April.

Get out there

🍂 Three options for early morning birding: With most of the leaves gone, birds are easier to spot this time of year. You can join birders across the state this month:

  • Join a monthly monitoring walk at the West Rutland marsh. The Rutland County Audubon group is meeting at 8 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 9 and will cover between two to four miles. 
  • Head to the Otter View Park in Middlebury on Saturday, Nov. 11, also at 8 a.m. for a wildlife walk. Organizers say birders of all ages and abilities are welcome
  • A final 8 a.m. bird walk is in Huntington Thursday, Nov. 16. It’s at a slow pace over about a mile and a half. Organizers will have binoculars and bird guides available to borrow; beginners welcome.

🌾 Follow the floodplain: Explore a branch of the Winooski river by looking at soil and plants with one of the state’s floodplain managers. The walk starts at the North Branch Nature Center in Montpelier and will cover less than a mile over a mostly flat surface. Saturday, Nov. 11 at 10 a.m.

🥾 Pride hike: Since the summer of 2018, the Pride Center of Vermont and Audubon have hosted monthly hikes and walks for the LGBTQ+ community. This month, the group is meeting at Shelburne Farms on Nov. 11 at 1 p.m. for a walk at an easy pace that will cover less than three miles. They’ll choose the trail based on the needs of participants.

🔶🦌 It’s almost deer season: The regular season starts Saturday, Nov. 11. New Hampshire Fish and Game put together a list of tips for staying safe during hunting season: wear bright orange, stick to established hiking trails, go on midday hikes if you can and make some noise while you walk. If you’re planning to be out hunting, Vermont Fish & Wildlife has a series of videos on how to process a deer.

Enter your email to sign up for Out There
Vermont Public's biweekly dose of all things environment.


Thanks for reading! If you have ideas for events we should feature, critters, fungi or plants you want to learn more about, or other feedback, we'd love to hear from you!

Credits: This week’s edition was put together by Lexi Krupp with lots of help from the Vermont Public team, including graphics by Laura Nakasaka and editorial support by Brittany Patterson.

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