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Vermont officials want a landslide taskforce after unprecedented events during July flooding

 A white building stands atop a hill. There is a landslide to the right of the building.
Agency of Transportation
A landslide near Prospect St. in Barre can be seen from the air on July 12, 2023.

Climate change is bringing more extreme rain to Vermont. That means more flooding. And also, more landslides.

That's according to Ben DeJong, the scientist who leads the Vermont Geological Survey. He told lawmakers on Wednesday that the survey received at least 82 calls after the July storm dropped more than 9 inches of rain in parts of the state. Vermonters were asking them to assess the risk of a slide happening at their property.

Once a crack appears in the ground, a slide can happen quickly. DeJong says his office of three is not equipped to handle this volume.

"I know for a fact we have not seen this magnitude of landsliding in the past, and this may just be a sign of what's to come," he says.

DeJong says his organization expected five or six landslides after this summer's floods — not 82. Of those, 11 required same-day evacuations.

DeJong says his team worked around the clock, because while other states have interagency landslide taskforces to respond in emergencies, Vermont does not.

More from Vermont Public: One house is destroyed in Barre landslides as flooding loosens up the ground

The Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) is now urging House lawmakers to create a landslide taskforce, to cover what ANR Secretary Julie Moore calls "a critical gap."

"The geologic survey has been engaged in landslide evaluation and making recommendations for my entire time at ANR," Moore said. "But we hadn't really seen sort of the concentration of events we saw following sustained rains in July."

The interagency landslide taskforce is the sort of solution Moore says could come out of a proposal announced this week by Republican Gov. Phil Scott and Democratic Treasurer Mike Pieciak to make state and local governments more resilient to climate change. The state will release a plan by mid-2025, when Vermont's Climate Action Plan is also due to be updated.

The Agency of Natural Resources' Climate Office will lead much of the work with the state treasurer's office. ANR Secretary Moore says state agencies, regional planning commissions and towns have been working to make the state more resilient to climate change-induced floods and other disasters, such as landslides.

"And I'm hopeful there may be opportunities to daylight some other such gaps ahead of time in the developing of the implementation strategy, which will just make us that much better positioned to respond whenever the next event occurs," Moore says.

She says there will be opportunities for the public to weigh in.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message, or contact reporter Abagael Giles:


Abagael is Vermont Public's climate and environment reporter, focusing on the energy transition and how the climate crisis is impacting Vermonters — and Vermont’s landscape.

Abagael joined Vermont Public in 2020. Previously, she was the assistant editor at Vermont Sports and Vermont Ski + Ride magazines. She covered dairy and agriculture for The Addison Independent and got her start covering land use, water and the Los Angeles Aqueduct for The Sheet: News, Views & Culture of the Eastern Sierra in Mammoth Lakes, Ca.
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