Texas Emergency Management ONLINE2011 Vol. 58 No. 2

HAZARD MITIGATION GRANT PROGRAM SAVES LIVES AND PROPERTY

Greg Pekar: TDEM Mitigation Section Administrator Greg Pekar

The Texas Division of Emergency Management Mitigation Section works to reduce the impact of disasters on lives and properties. The Section provides plans, grants and guidance to communities for everything from tornado safe rooms and hurricane surge markers to projects allowing flood waters to pass downstream more easily and safely.

TDEM Mitigation Section Administrator Greg Pekar said: “We cannot eliminate all risks to a community. But we can do our best to reduce the potential impact – through analyzing and understanding hazards and improving infrastructure.”

It may be awhile before the impact of improvements to a flood prone community’s roads, bridges, berms, culverts, pump stations, drainage ditches and other infrastructure can be seen, because it may be awhile before Mother Nature strikes again. But the difference can be dramatic.

“One way we can help is to provide funding for buyouts in areas that flood repeatedly,” Pekar said. “This saves money for cities and counties in terms of flood response costs. It also saves taxpayer dollars by removing the potential for more claims to be charged to the National Flood Insurance Program.”

The Mitigation Section has had several successes in recent years, involving the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) administered by TDEM. After a federal disaster declaration, HMGP money is made available to state and local governments to encourage implementation of long-term initiatives that will reduce the loss of lives and property.

After severe flooding in 1998, TDEM helped the city of Eagle Pass apply for HMGP funding. For a cost of $531,139, one business and 14 homes in an area along the Rio Grande River were acquired. Officials said 75 percent of the cost of the acquisition project was financed by FEMA, with the remaining 25 percent coming from local and state funding.

The area was converted into a city park. In July 2010, Hurricane Alex struck with a boomerang effect, driving westward and dropping large amounts of rain in South Texas and Mexico, which then washed back down the Rio Grande. The park area in Eagle Pass was inundated – but thanks to HMGP the houses and businesses that might have been damaged were no longer there.

Pekar said those buyouts: “saved money for the city and saved everyone a lot of misery.”

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