This week Iceland held a funeral for Okjokull, the first glacier to disappear due to climate change. It was a dramatic and distressing thing to view.
Closer to home, at the most recent Fayston Select Board meeting, there was a lengthy discussion of local roads, culverts, upkeep, maintenance and mitigating stormwater and rainfall.
Fayston, like Duxbury, is a town connected primarily by dirt roads, most of them steep and many near high-elevation headwater streams.
Both towns are seeing persistent damage to the dirt roads due to rainstorms that drop inches of rain at once, overwhelming culverts and ditches and causing extensive and costly damage.
The problems are not limited to those two towns. All Valley towns have their share of steep dirt roads and all are seeing road budgets impacted by the need to manage repairs caused by heavy rain episodes. These episodes are increasing in frequency.
Local town road departments and select boards have been following newly revised state protocols for upgrading culverts to reduce stormwater runoff and slow the flow of stormwater from streams into the Mad River.
Friends of the Mad River’s Ridge to River efforts are also helping to slow the flow of stormwater into the river through extensive work with local road crews and individual homeowners on a house-by-house basis.
The Mad River Valley Planning District, local road departments and Friends of the Mad River have completed an extensive town-by-town study that identifies problem areas and targeted specific projects for upgrades and improvements.
The work is underway and it is thoughtful and excellent work. But it is not enough, not this year, to prevent expensive work, specifically in Duxbury that requires the town to bond for funds to cover it. Some costs will be covered by state and federal funds, but a lot of it will fall to taxpayers.
Increasing tax rates to cover climate change–related road damage is more subtle than a funeral for a glacier but no less alarming. Climate change is often regarded as a political issue, a conservative versus liberal issue. Increasingly, the reality is that it is a financial issue and it’s real and it’s here.