The historic Tivoli United Methodist Church, in Lycoming County, Pennyslvania, went for a bit of a stroll May 25th, moving to a new cinderblock foundation 500 feet away on higher ground. FEMA's Hazard Mitigation Grant Program made the move possible for the church that had been repeatedly flooded in recent years.
The relocation of the church will also allow the state's Department of Transportation to enlarge the nearby Fox Run bridge opening and alter road alignment for safer traffic flow.
"We're pleased to help the community preserve and protect the church," said Rita A. Calvan, director of FEMA's Region III. "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."
While the distance the church moved was not great, the move was significant because it put the church 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.
Hazard mitigation grants are 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 grant program, 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.