Gov. Peter Shumlin and Jean Charest, Premier of Quebec, called today for the creation of an international task force with representatives from the United States and Canada to study issues related to flooding on Lake Champlain and the Richelieu River. They also announced that they are inviting the State of New York and the federal government to a conference of scientific and policy experts to discuss ways to reduce the harm and damage from future flooding events.
In a letter signed by both leaders, addressed to President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Shumlin and Charest cited the spring flooding in which "hundreds of residents in Québec and Vermont suffered serious material damages and, in some cases, were forced to evacuate their homes. The governments of Québec and Vermont are currently making considerable efforts to come to the aid of those affected by this disaster and contain the damage."
They noted the importance of determining the causes that lead to flooding, and seek measures to reduce the likelihood of that damage occurring in the future. Shumlin and Charest urged the President and Prime Minister to charge the International Joint Commission, which was established under the 1909 Treaty between the United States and Canada relating to boundary waters, to form a study board to conduct that study.
With regard to the conference, Shumlin and Charest thanked the Lake Champlain Basin Program, which has agreed to convene and coordinate the conference, and Vermont's Senator Patrick Leahy who was instrumental in obtaining funding to support the conference. Details are still being worked out but the conference is proposed to be held in Burlington in the late fall.
"Flooding is not a problem that is confined by boundaries on a map," Gov. Shumlin said. "Our two countries share the benefits and the problems associated with Lake Champlain and its tributaries. It's important we work together to solve those problems -- and if possible, prevent them from occurring."
The governments of Quebec and Vermont want to participate in that study, Shumlin and Charest said in the letter, adding, "A study of this nature and this type of conference will help strengthen Canada-U.S. collaboration on environmental issues and water management."
On a related note, Governor Shumlin also announced that he is asking Agency of Natural Resources Secretary Deb Markowitz to convene a summit of agency and department heads to discuss Vermont's response to this year's flood events and also to discuss ways that we can ensure that our state is better prepared to prevent and respond to future flooding.