What goes into understanding and planning a town? Information on population, housing, employment, transportation and the environment all must be considered, among other factors.
The Mad River Valley Planning District (MRVPD), created by the towns of Fayston, Waitsfield and Warren in 1985, has collected data regarding several themes for their Mad River Valley 2015 Annual Data Report.
The report was authored by MRVPD executive director Joshua Schwartz, with assistance from planning coordinator Dara Torre. It was created to address the requirement of the district’s 1998 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the three towns and Sugarbush Resort.
Data is based on the 2014 calendar year but also includes information from Sugarbush Resort collected in early 2015. It is gathered from a variety of public sources, such as Mad River Glen, Friends of the Mad River and the Mad River Watershed Conservation Partnership.
Data from the Mad River Valley Economic Study, authored by a consultant team consisting of SE Group, Doug Kennedy Advisors and Birchline Consulting, also informed the report.
Environmental data included themes of electrical consumption, E. coli levels in the Mad River and land conservation.
The report shows that of Fayston, Waitsfield and Warren, Warren used the most electricity in 2014, at 61 percent of the total. Warren has just as many residents as Waitsfield, who used just 28 percent of the electricity, but 65 percent of Warren’s residences are vacation homes.
Residential and commercial use is nearly equal in the three towns.
Data on electrical consumption was provided by Green Mountain Power (GMP), but much of Fayston uses Washington Electric Cooperative (WEC). The report shows that households in Fayston that are serviced by GMP use 11 percent of the total electricity.
Overall electrical energy consumption shows a downward trend since 2008. In 2014, voters in Waitsfield and Warren approved funding for new solar arrays for municipal power generation. Although town-level data is not available for solar power usage in 2014, the state saw an increase in solar by 58 percent in 2014.
Schwartz said that in the past, the district has looked at energy usage more broadly, including gasoline usage from transportation – not just electricity. But data for 2014 on fuel usage was not reliable for this report.
Data on transportation could include not just how much Valley residents are driving but the fuel usage of those who are delivering products within The Valley. The data could get us to think about “the total costs of our decisions,” he said.
The report looks at levels of E. coli in the Mad River, with data collected from 37 sites by Friends of the Mad River. A graph shows a large spike in levels during 2010, when levels of rainfall were also high.
E. coli bacteria are an indicator of pollution from the fecal matter of livestock, wildlife and humans.
Concerning land conservation, approximately 5,221 acres, or 8 percent, of the total municipal, state and private land in the three towns are under protection through conservation easements. An additional 10,543 acres of public land, or 16 percent of the total land, are not subject to conservation easement but are part of state and national forest systems, which are often conserved more informally.
Conservation easements in The Valley are held by the Vermont Land Trust (10,033), the town of Warren (253 acres) and the Green Mountain Club (531 acres).
Schwartz said that the data is useful because it is telling us what we are doing in terms of affecting the environment, but the question that follows is, what does it all mean?
With electrical consumption, for example, questions arise about how the numbers from 2014 compare to previous years or how the energy produced within The Valley compares to that produced outside.
The Valley Reporter will explore additional themes from the report, such as housing and employment, in upcoming issues.