MONTPELIER — Federal officials have approved Vermont’s updated hazard mitigation plan, making the state eligible to receive more federal grants to prepare for the next big storm or man-made disaster.
In addition, Vermont communities that adopt their own hazard mitigation plans will be in line for increased state assistance in the event of a future federally declared disaster, according to Vermont Hazard Mitigation Officer Ray Doherty.
“We are trying to encourage the pre-disaster behavior at the local level that will actually save the state money in the long term,” Doherty said.
Doherty said there are some specific steps communities can take, such as adopting higher road and bridge standards to make them resistant to floods, adopting flood hazard bylaws in known flood-prone areas and having local mitigation plans, a prerequisite to get Federal Emergency Management Agency mitigation funds.
Vermont Emergency Management is going to post its hazard mitigation plan online sometime next week. But the executive summary says that climate change “will affect the severity and frequency of natural hazards” and the plan is needed to ensure the state is prepared.
The plan approved by FEMA was designed to help communities develop their own plans and ensure that public agencies work well with private organizations.
Since Tropical Storm Irene hit Vermont two years ago, the state applied for about $30 million in FEMA hazard-mitigation grants. Probably the most well-known use of that money was to buy homes that were destroyed or damaged by the flood and considered to be at risk of damage in future floods.
The plan was in the works before Irene, but that storm prompted the Legislature to include recommendations that municipalities develop flood resiliency plans.
It can pay communities to participate.
When FEMA is helping respond to federally declared emergencies communities are typically eligible for 75 percent FEMA funding for the repairs with the state and municipalities splitting the remaining portion, Doherty said.
“So if the communities do additional things, they’ll get more than the 12˝ percent,” he said. “They can get as much as 17˝ percent from the state. And if they don’t do any of these things they can get less than the 12˝ percent.”
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