Irene film to be shown in Jamaica


JAMAICA -- A new film begins with footage of rushing water destroying property while Deputy Secretary of Transportation Sue Minter runs through a list of the damage that Tropical Storm Irene left in its wake.

"It was a tremendous event," she said. "The largest in our generation. Something you had never seen since the Great Flood of 1927."

On Jan. 30, producer Joe DeFelice of Riverbank Media will host a free public screening of his latest film, "After the Floods: Vermont's Rivers and the Legacy of Irene." It will begin at 7 p.m. at the Jamaica Town Hall.

The film is an hour long and it addresses how the storm and restoration affected rivers. There will be a discussion following the film. DeFelice said he will be fielding questions after the screening.

From Windham County, there is footage of the storm and its consequences in towns such as Jamaica, Newfane, Saxtons River, Wilmington and Brattleboro. DeFelice went as far north as Montpelier, visiting various towns that had been affected by flooding. He interviewed agency experts as well as environmental leaders.

The idea for the film was suggested after he had received his first Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife watershed grant for a previous film on endangered species. These grants are typically available for projects that serve to protect or restore water quality, shorelines, or fish and wildlife habitats.

"They suggested the subject of the rivers, the effect of Irene and some of the machine work done afterwards," said DeFelice.

He applied and received another grant from the department. Then, shooting for the project began.

It was a part-time job for DeFelice, who worked on the film mostly in the summer. He wanted to address "what a river needs to do and how we look to the future when preparing for floods."

"You can never have enough information," said DeFelice. "My goal was to provide this film as a starting block for dialogue when towns are looking to upgrade things like culverts and their management plans."

Mostly, he hoped to convey the aftermath these types of floods have on the rivers and fish. It also looks at how rivers should be managed.

DeFelice told the Reformer about a scene from the movie that particularly resonates with him. After Irene, in between Rutland and Middlebury, people had noticed that the flow of water had decreased. Most people had thought it would have increased in such an event.

"There's a huge expensive wetlands complex with major swamps and they acted as a sponge to slow the flow of water as it went through Middlebury," he said. "Rivers need things like that. A pressure relief valve. And any wetlands you can preserve along the way will slow down any flood damage or erosive power."

For that segment, DeFelice had flown over the location in a plane to see the river from above.

The next project for the non-profit Riverbank Media will be about life on a mountain brook, from its end to the source. It will likely be completed in a year from now.

"After the Floods" will be the production company's fifth film. Other DVDs from the East Dorset company will also be available for donations at the screening.

Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.


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