WESLACO, Texas -- A project to help communities reduce risks of damage from floods and manmade hazards was announced today by Tyrus Fain, President of Rio Grande Institute (RGI) and R. L. "Buddy" Young, Regional Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Webb County and the cities of Laredo and Brownsville are co-sponsors of the project.
"The project is a first step towards a long-term goal of developing disaster resistant communities along the Rio Grande with cities, counties, and other entities participating on a voluntary basis," Fain stated. "This project is in keeping with the FEMA Project Impact program's goal to make every community more disaster resistant," Young said.
The initiative will extend along the Rio Grande from the Del Rio-Eagle Pass area to South Padre Island, an area suffering from repetitive losses from storms and exposed to hazards unique to an international border.
"The local officials will build on a lot of good work already in place, form partnerships between communities, and develop plans to minimize property and human losses from disasters," Fain said. The project will raise public awareness of risks and will encourage participation in the National Flood Insurance Program.
The first phases of the project will enlist public and private sector participation, survey hazards, identify "at risk" assets, and highlight education and information management needs. Later phases will bring resources required by local communities to make exposed assets more disaster resistant.
Led by Webb County and the cities of Laredo and Brownsville, this federal assistance project of the Rio Grande Institute is funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Economic Development Administration. State and local agencies, business and civic groups, and universities will also participate.
Mayor Elizabeth Flores of Laredo welcomed the project commenting, "This is the kind of focus on the Rio Grande River we have been seeking for some time through the American Heritage River designation and the Southwestern Border Initiative. It is important that our city be proactive and not reactive in addressing potential disasters."
Fain stressed that "this is very much a local project to safeguard local residents, businesses, communities, and their property. The role of the Institute and the federal partners is to help."