GUILFORD -- With a state grant in hand, officials are planning to take an in-depth look at the Green River.
The effort is expected to yield better flood mapping as well as ideas for projects that could improve safety along the river in Guilford and Halifax.
"There are all kinds of ideas that could come out of this," said Dinah Reed, a planner at Windham Regional Commission in Brattleboro.
The commission received a $25,320 grant from the state Department of Environmental Conservation to conduct what's called a "stream geomorphic assessment."
Such studies are being conducted around the state, and they are designed to enable researchers to "tell the story" of a waterway. That story includes the quality of aquatic habitats, the prevalence of erosion and flood hazards and the impact humans have had on a river.
In Department of Environmental Conservation literature, officials say the idea is to show that waterways are not isolated from the surrounding landscape or from history.
"For instance, channel modifications upstream or downstream of a site, conducted decades ago, may be the source of the problems observed at the site today," officials wrote. "Maps, aerial photos and historic information will be invaluable when combined with field observations in piecing together the story of a stream's response to the natural and human disturbances that have occurred over time.
Of course, a recent, large-scale "disturbance" was Tropical Storm Irene's devastating flooding in August 2011. Though geomorphic assessments were conducted before Irene, those studies now will help identify the risks and impacts wrought by the storm.
For instance, Green River data will be used to create "fluvial erosion hazard" maps. In contrast with "inundation" flooding -- in which waters rise and spread across a flood plan -- officials say Vermont is most at risk from fluvial erosion flooding caused by fast-moving rivers and streams.
"That's the majority of what happened during Irene," Reed said. "FEMA only maps inundation flood areas -- they do not map fluvial erosion flood areas."
Such mapping, Reed said, "would show regions where there are problems or potential problems" and will assist towns in hazard-mitigation planning.
"This is not just about fish habitat," Reed said. "This is about making better land-use choices near our rivers."
Overall, the study will include a "phase one" assessment on 17 miles of the Green River. That first phase relies mostly on documents such as maps, aerial photos and existing studies.
A second-phase assessment involving field research will be conducted on a minimum of eight miles of the Green River.
Reed said the study will begin this spring. The process will continue into 2014, when two public meetings will be held.
Officials say they will contact landowners adjacent to affected segments of the river "to discuss potential projects and desired outcomes." Also, a steering committee that includes local representation will help guide the assessment through its expected completion in late 2014.
"It's definitely a community-oriented process," Reed said.
The completed study will be posted on the commission's website, www.windhamregional.org.
Mike Faher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.