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Guilford Considers River Corridor Protection

Guilford At A Glance

Population: 2,121
Location: Windham County
Rivers: Green River
Flooding: Impacted by Tropical Storm Irene
Actions: Flood & Fluvial Erosion Hazard Ordinance


Guilford’s Floodplain Administrator, Steve Lembke, has always been fascinated with water. After growing up next to the Green River, his son went on to become an oceanographer, mapping the ocean floor. Steve’s interests stayed closer to home when the Guilford Selectboard recruited him to become the town’s Floodplain Administrator, a position required by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). “If you don’t believe in the role of the Floodplain Administrator, you can’t do the job,” said Steve, “because it’s this delicate balance of preservation, protecting people and property and town resources, and telling people that you are going to regulate what they can do on their land that is close to the river.”

Steve started this volunteer role by making sure that the town was in compliance with NFIP requirements, but soon turned his sights to river corridor protection. With help from the Windham Regional Planning Commission, Vermont Rivers Program, and Guilford Selectboard, Steve drafted a Flood & Fluvial Erosion Hazard Ordinance. Guilford doesn’t have any town zoning, so any new regulations will likely face opposition, which makes public engagement very important. As part of a targeted outreach campaign, the town sent postcards to 461 property owners that would be impacted by the flood hazard area, inviting them to a public meeting that introduced the bylaws and their context and gathered input from the community. In November the community will vote on the bylaw by ballot.

Steve’s stake in the new bylaws was also personal - while his property isn’t in the FEMA-designated special flood hazard area, it is within the River Corridor and subject to the new regulations. The fact that he personally was impacted helped with some of the difficult conversations he had with other community members.  “You have to tell them: it’s the protection of people, of property. If you’re honest with them and sit with them, you can convince them that it’s the right thing to do.”

In addition to the 5.5-minute video case study on Guilford you can also watch a 5-minute excerpt from Steve’s interview in which he reflects on being a Floodplain Administrator.

Review the 2018 template bylaws and regulations to get started

Guilford's Outeach Materials

Reflection Questions

  • If your floodplain administrator role is not filled, who can take this role on to stay compliant with the National Flood Insurance Program?
  • What roads, bridges, and buildings are most at risk of erosion damage in your community?
  • What steps can you take to get your Selectboard to consider a River Corridor bylaw update?
  • Who in your community is impacted by a River Corridor bylaw and how can you get them involved in the process?