LACEY, Wash -- Over nearly 30 years, millions of dollars have been spent to relocate or elevate over 100 residences in the town of Snoqualmie . Much of the money came from the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP). HMGP funding, which is administered by the State, provided between 75 percent of the cost to elevate a home.
"When large amounts of money are spent on a project such as this, the public often wonders if it was worth it" said Libby Turner, FEMA's federal coordinating officer. "These homes were flooded prior to 1996 and the homeowners had to decide whether or not to go to the extra trouble of applying for mitigation grant money and/or applying for an SBA loan to mitigate against the chance of future flooding. Since Washington 's series of winter storms in 2006, many people are contemplating the same decision."
In order to assist homeowners making this decision, FEMA coordinated an economic analysis, called a loss avoided study, on a sample of 28 out of the 100 residential structures that were elevated in 1996 and 1997 under the HMGP. This program, which is part of the Stafford Act, assists states and local communities in implementing hazard mitigation measures after the President declares a disaster.
"The results of the study show that after last year's severe storms and flooding, it can be said without a doubt the money for those projects was well spent" said Kurt Hardin, Washington State coordinating officer. "Hazard Mitigation is a proactive approach to reducing the impact of disasters on people's lives and property."
The loss avoided study was based on Washington 's November, 2006 severe storms which raised the Snoqualmie River to a peak stage of over 420 feet. Had the 28 homes not been elevated, there would have been from 0.4 feet to almost 8 feet of water on the first floors. Eight of the structures would have experience less than 2 feet of water, 16 homes would have been flooded between 2 and 5 feet, and 4 homes would have had over 5 feet of water. One home would have had 7.9 feet of water covering the interior of their home.
The cost of this damage would have been approximately $1.6 million. The total cost for the mitigation measures for these 28 homes was $1.3 million. Already money has been saved. It is clearly established that over the next few years, if flooding should continue to occur, the savings to the individual homeowners and to local tax payers will increase greatly and, in fact, lives may be saved.
The payoff from mitigation measures almost always outweighs the initial cost. The President, in his initial disaster declarations has declared the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program available for the entire state of Washington for the 2006 winter storms.
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.