AUSTIN, Texas -- Thousands of people in north Beaumont will be the beneficiaries of a federal hazard mitigation grant considered among the largest the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has given in Texas since the passage of the Stafford Act.
FEMA officials will present a giant check, representing $23.66 million in Hazard Mitigation Grant Program funds given to the State of Texas in behalf of Jefferson County Drainage District No. 6, to district representatives in a ceremony Wednesday, Dec. 20, at the district office, 6550 Walden Road , Beaumont . The event will begin at 10 a.m.
The FEMA funding is 75 percent of a $31.55 million project to install box culverts under three miles of Calder Street, one block of North Main Street and three blocks of Elizabeth Street, to divert water from the Middle Hillebrandt Watershed to the Neches River.
The watershed accounts for 38 percent of the flows in the drainage basin. The project directly benefits approximately 1,100 structures in a 2,200-acre, including a major hospital that previously had severe flood damage.
"The project will remove miles of people from rainfall hazards," said Gregory F. Pekar, Texas state hazard mitigation officer for the Governor's Division of Emergency Management. "This is a significant step forward for the people of Beaumont ."
"This project is among the biggest FEMA has ever given since the passage of the Robert T. Stafford Act in 1988," said E.C. "Butch" Smith, director of the Transitional Recovery Office (TRO) in Austin , Texas . "It is much cheaper for U.S. taxpayers to pay to prevent damage and grief to residents than to spend huge amounts to rebuild after the fact. Studies show that for every dollar we spend for mitigation, $4 is saved."
The project is currently the largest single structural (construction) HMGP project ever done in Texas . A mitigation project in Houston related to tropical storm Allison is larger, but it was approved as three separate projects.
City, county and state and federal officials have been invited to the event. FEMA TRO representatives will include Bob Bennett, chief of staff to director Smith, and Philip Parks, Hazard Mitigation Section chief. Beaumont Senior Federal Official Sandra Cooley is also expected to attend.
The work will install 47,155 feet of 10-foot by 10-foot culverts, enough to cover a football field 141 feet high, according to the district. The project will save taxpayer dollars in two ways - removing the potential for costly flood damage and insured losses to commercial and residential structures, and completing this work in conjunction with already-scheduled road work by the city of Beaumont . Installing the box culverts as a stand-alone project would require the district to pay to dig up the roads and put them back, adding millions of dollars to the cost.
A Texas Water Development Board study in 2004 identified the Calder Street project as a key to flood protection in Beaumont , but until Hurricane Rita's arrival in 2005, the drainage district was uncertain as to how to fund the work.
A percentage of disaster relief funding is earmarked for mitigation - reducing the potential for repetitive damage. FEMA's program for this work is called the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program; the $23.66 million approved for the drainage district is an HMGP award under the Hurricane Rita Sept. 24 disaster declaration. The financing does not affect money earmarked for Rita disaster survivors.
A special beneficiary of the project will be St. Elizabeth Hospital , which sustained $6 million in damage and loss of business in 2002 due to flooding. The hospital was also out of operation for three weeks, partly due to flooding, following Hurricane Rita in 2005.
The state administers FEMA grants destined for local agencies. FEMA released funding for the Beaumont project t...