County looks for input on disaster mitigation plan
SUMMIT COUNTY The Summit County Government is looking to obtain public feedback on a county-wide disaster mitigation plan that identifies the areas most likely natural hazards and how to plan for them in advance. Once the plan is finalized it will be sent to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which provides pre-disaster mitigation grants for those areas that qualify under the strict application process. FEMA has a lot of requirements for this plan and it has taken almost nine months to compile everything together, county emergency manager Joel Cochran said. In the end, its not just about chasing the grant money but rather having a plan the whole county can adopt.In January, the county hired an engineering consultant firm, AMEC Earth and Environmental, for $40,000 to begin the process of categorizing potential natural hazards. The pre-disaster plan marks the first of its kind in Summit County, and funding was provided by the Colorado Water Conservancy Board, the State Division of Emergency Management and the county budget. This will be the first plan sent to FEMA where the pine beetle is listed as a top hazard, Cochran said. The other main hazards we have placed at the top of the list are severe weather, wildfires and flooding.Included in the plan are separate annexes for each town in the county, which helps narrow down specific projects that can be put in place in advance to protect at-risk communities. One project we would like to do would be re-mapping the countys flood plain, which is very out of date right now, Cochran said. Then theres pine beetle mitigation, public education programs, and maybe someday being able to put a text-message emergency alert system in place.Summit County residents will have two weeks to review the plan and make comments before it is sent to FEMA, and hard copies of the document can be found at the Frisco and Silverthorne Libraries, the Summit County Sheriffs Office, as well as online at the countys emergency management website. This is a chance for the public to comment on how we have identified our hazards, Cochran said. They might be able to add to our project list and help us reprioritize or identify hazards we havent thought of.Once submitted, FEMA will have 60 days to review the plan. During that time the local Summit County government will decide whether to adopt it as the countys official pre-disaster mitigation plan. In 2005, FEMA allocated $233 million in pre-disaster mitigation grants for those communities that implemented long-term plans to moderate their reliance on federal dollars following a natural disaster. Having a plan opens up funding, Cochran said. But the grants are really geared towards the process of creating the plan, so in the end what we have already done is benefiting the community.Ashley Dickson can be reached at (970) 668-4629, or at email@example.com.
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