BILOXI, Miss. -- Hurricane Katrina’s record-breaking storm surge highlighted the need for mitigating or reducing the risk of flood damage from another severe weather event. In support of that, three grants totaling nearly $865,000 were awarded to the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) for acquiring several damaged coastal homes and for updating the flood component of the state’s hazard mitigation plan.
The money was awarded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) through several mitigation grant programs.
A $437,812 grant through FEMA’s Flood Mitigation Assistance (FMA) program will pay for the acquisition of four houses in Pascagoula insured through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). To qualify, owners must have two or more claims with costs greater than $1000. After the houses are acquired for fair market value, they will be demolished and the land will be used as open space such as a field or a park.
The FMA program is designed to reduce or eliminate the long-term risk of flooding to houses insured through the NFIP. Reduced risks will reduce the number of claims paid through the program. The grant is funded by premiums, not taxpayer dollars.
“There is an annual amount awarded states based on the number of repetitive loss properties and the number of flood policies in the state,” said Mike Womack, MEMA’s interim director. “Mississippi ranks 8th nationally in the number of repetitive flood loss properties.”
The Severe Repetitive Loss Program (SRLP) will make a grant available for $391,160 to acquire four NFIP-insured properties in Jackson and Pearl River counties and in Gulfport and Pascagoula. To qualify, property owners must have four or more claims, each exceeding $5,000 and cumulatively exceeding $20,000, or have two or more claims that exceed the building value.
The SRLP is a nationally competitive pilot program that seeks to reduce flood claims through the acquisition of targeted insured properties with a long history of flooding. This SRLP grant is 100 percent federally funded.
An update to the flood component of the state’s hazard mitigation plan will be paid by a $36,000 FMA planning grant. Mississippi’s hazard mitigation plan was approved by FEMA in 2004. The state will submit its first mandatory three-year update in 2007. State and local governments are required to develop comprehensive hazard mitigation plans in order to receive post-disaster mitigation funding.
The plans identify hazards, assess the state/local vulnerability to the hazards and develop strategies for reducing or eliminating the vulnerability. Safe rooms, storm shelters, acquisitions and elevation of flood prone buildings are strategies designed to diminish storm damage.
“Each of these hazard mitigation grants will help make communities safer,” said Nick Russo, federal coordinating officer for the Mississippi disaster. “Mitigation programs are also designed to lessen the financial impact of disasters on states and on the nation.”
FEMA manages federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident, initiates mitigation activities and manages the National Flood Insurance Program. FEMA works closely with state and local emergency managers, law enforcement personnel, firefighters and other first responders. FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on March 1, 2003.