Skagit: Local entities applying for disaster-plan grant


Skagit Valley Herald

BURLINGTON — The federal government, tired of having to pay for recurring damage during major disasters, is telling cities in Skagit County to prepare for the worst — or local homeowners could be left high and dry.

Regulations passed in February by the Federal Emergency Management Agency call for all cities and counties to have a plan to avoid damage from natural disasters by Nov. 1, 2003.

If local government doesn’t have those plans, homeowners, businesses and government agencies won’t get federal money to help rebuild and repair after a natural disaster, including an earthquake, windstorm or flood.

Burlington, Skagit County, the Town of Hamilton and Dike District 12 are jointly applying for $100,000 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to develop a plan to handle such disasters.

The agency has about $1.8 million available through the state Department of Emergency Management for hazard mitigation planning.

Burlington’s planning commission recommended this week that the city apply for the grant. For Burlington, flooding is the main concern.

If local governments don’t have an approved plan, the federal government would still help with flood fighting. But it won’t help to rebuild afterwards, according to Joan Sterling of the state Department of Emergency Management.

“Repetitive loss is a common problem with flooding,” Sterling said.

The all-hazard mitigation plans include taking a tally of all natural disasters that could occur in an area, a detailed description of where the area is vulnerable to a disaster, a summary of how an area would be affected by each disaster, how much damage from the disaster would cost and a plan to avoid future damage.

That plan could include raising homes in one area of the city while relocating homes in another, more vulnerable area, Sterling said.

Skagit County already tried to apply for the grant, but was told it wasn’t eligible because it doesn’t comply with the state’s Growth Management Act, said Tom Sheahan, director of Skagit County Emergency Management.

Still, a joint application makes more sense, Sheahan said. The cities’ plans have to fit in with the county, state and federal plans, so local coordination now avoids having to go back and alter plans later, he said.

“This is really a massive project,” Sheahan said. “We need to have police and fire and public works and planners from each city to design this plan.”


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