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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A community partnership effort to reduce the impact of natural and man-made disasters on Charlotte and Mecklenburg County begins tomorrow with the signing of an agreement making North Carolina's largest community a partner in Project Impact.
Officials of the state and local governments and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will participate in a signing ceremony at 11:00 a.m. (July 29) in the parking lot at Lowe's, 1100 Chancellor Park Drive. A major building supplies retailer, Lowe's is a corporate partner in the effort.
Project Impact is the umbrella name for a number of programs that help communities become more disaster-resistant. It is a national initiative developed by FEMA Director James Lee Witt to bring an end to the repetitive-loss cycle that has cost the government $14 billion in the last five years, $64 million in direct federal assistance to North Carolina for Hurricane Hugo alone.*
Charlotte, largest metropolitan area in the Carolinas, has a fast-growing population of 1.2 million, half of whom reside in Mecklenburg County. Over the years, flooding and stormwater management has been a significant concern to the community. Rare torrential rainstorms hit downtown Charlotte in the summer of 1995 and 1997, resulting in flooded homes, apartments, and businesses. Although it is 200 miles inland from the Atlantic, Charlotte/Mecklenburg was hit with 80 mile-per-hour winds when Hurricane Hugo came inland in 1989. The state also faces a moderate risk of earthquakes.
Through Project Impact, participating communities identify their disaster vulnerabilities and develop long-range plans, with assistance from the state and FEMA, to lessen the impact of disasters. Such plans may include fortifying buildings against high winds, elevation or buyouts of frequently flooded properties, improved threat warning systems and charting hazardous risks in fire fighting. In Charlotte/Mecklenburg, the initiative will focus on implementing flood hazard mitigation plans.
How many communities are participating?
To date, 120 communities in all 50 states and the territories of Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands have been designated to participate in Project Impact. In North Carolina Wilmington/New Hanover County has joined and Boone has been designated. New designations are made annually, based on state government nominations.
What lies ahead?
FEMA has provided an initial grant of $150,000 for operating expenses and the community has received $11 million for hazard mitigation projects from FEMA and the state. These projects involve buyout of repetitively flooded structures, particularly in lower income neighborhoods. The city and county have formed an effective partnership for floodplain and stormwater management -- Charlotte-Mecklenburg Stormwater Services. Both governments created stormwater utilities and are cooperatively administering a stormwater management program. Their combined operating budgets exceed $31 million annually. The city and county have committed several million dollars for detailed flood analyses of drainage basins, prioritizing those undergoing rapid urban development. This effort is complemented by a FEMA-funded re-study of several drainage basins. An electronic database of all floodprone structures has been developed.