PHILADELPHIA, Pa. -- The Federal Emergency Management Agency's Hazard Mitigation Grant Program is known for helping flood-prone homeowners move out of harm's way. Today the program made it possible for a church to move to higher ground.
The relocation of the historic Tivoli United Methodist Church from the Route 220 right-of-way north of Picture Rocks, Lycoming County, is intended to reduce flooding and traffic hazards. With the church moved safely out of the way, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation plans to enlarge the nearby Fox Run bridge opening and alter road alignment.
"We're pleased to help the community preserve and protect the church," Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Region III Director Rita A.Calvan said. "This funding is from the FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, which is designed to break the recurrent cycle of flood-repair-flood and to limit future loss of lives and property."
The church's new cinderblock foundation is on a congregation-owned lot about 500 feet away. The distance may be small, but the move is significant because the new location is out of the 100-year floodplain. The project cost to move the church is $16,500, of which FEMA's 75 percent share amounts to $12,375.
Since 1996, when a January flood affected the entire commonwealth, FEMA has allocated nearly $30 million for HMGP projects in Pennsylvania. In Lycoming County, FEMA already has spent almost $8.5 million for projects that have included the purchase of 140 properties from homeowners voluntarily participating in the program.
HMGP is activated when the president declares a disaster. Money available for any particular disaster is an additional amount equal to 15 percent of the amount FEMA spends to assist disaster victims and communities in the recovery process. Under the HMGP, federal funds pay for 75 percent of the project cost with 25 percent coming from non-federal sources. In Pennsylvania, the commonwealth puts in 22 percent, with 3 percent expected from local sources.
Hazard mitigation is a long-term process that seeks permanent solutions to the problem of repeated flooding. It is a voluntary program that requires an active partnership among the disaster victims, the community, the state and FEMA. If a community's residents want to participate in hazard mitigation and there is the potential of reducing future disaster damage, the community develops a proposal and submits it to the state. The state reviews and prioritizes the proposal and forwards it to FEMA for approval and funding.
Lycoming County has taken its mitigation efforts to a higher level by becoming Pennsylvania's first participant in Project Impact: Building Disaster Resistant Communities. Launched in the fall of 1997, Project Impact is a nationwide initiative to motivate public and private sector participation in actions to make American cities more resistant to floods, hurricanes, earthquakes and other costly natural hazards.
The commonwealth's other Project Impact members are Union Township and the Luzerne County Flood Control Authority/Mitigation Advisory Board.