The mitigation planning process is an important initiative. It creates a framework for risk-based decision making to reduce damages to lives, property, and the economy from future disasters. Following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, parishes within the state of Louisiana had an opportunity to amend or update their existing Hazard Mitigation Plan and initiate project scoping by participating in a Hazard Mitigation Grant Program Expanded Mitigation Strategies Planning Pilot Grant Program.
“The program was a success as it gave the parishes an opportunity to scope out and to prioritize mitigation projects. This allowed cost-effective projects to be executed when funding became available,” said Brenda Cooper, State Planning team lead. “Another plus is all 64 parishes have approved Hazard Mitigation Plans.”
FEMA’s HMGP Expanded Mitigation Strategies Planning Pilot Grant Program provided funds for eligible HMGP Applicants (for specified disasters) to identify and plan feasible mitigation projects and incorporate those projects into their Hazard Mitigation Plans while setting short and long-range mitigation goals and objectives.
To be eligible for the Pilot, an Applicant had to (1) be located in a declared disaster area eligible for hazard mitigation assistance as a result of Hurricanes Katrina, Rita or Wilma in the States of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi or Texas and (2) be in the process of preparing a Hazard Mitigation Plan where the work has progressed beyond the identification of hazards or have a FEMA approved Hazard Mitigation Plan.
Eligible activities under the Pilot Program included:
- Conducting feasibility analyses (i.e., project planning/scoping)
- Preliminary engineering investigations, studies, designs and construction cost estimates for potential mitigation projects and activities
- Environmental scoping, including identification of historic resources
- Gathering data and performing benefit cost analyses for potential mitigation projects and activities
- Plan Adjustments or Updates to the risk assessment and mitigation strategy sections of the HM Plan, in association with project scoping activities
- Local coordination of the mitigation strategy activities at the community level
The Pilot Grant funds were awarded to the parishes (Applicant/ Sub-grantee) by the State of Louisiana (Grantee) using a Cooperative Agreement instead of the sub-grant agreement. The CA required specific, close coordination between the State, parishes and FEMA throughout the process of identifying projects, gathering data and conducting analyses and performing the appropriate reviews. As an outcome of this agreement the parishes received a FEMA approved Hazard Mitigation Plan that reflected all current relevant hazard data, including the FEMA issued Advisory Base Flood Elevations, including the incorporation of the mitigation projects scoped under the CA.
Initiated in 2008, the Pilot Grant Project awarded $150,000 to each eligible Applicant.
As grant recipients, Louisiana’s parishes were given the opportunity to participate in one of three project-type combinations:
(1) Adjustments to the HM Plan under Development and Project Scoping;
(2) HM Plan Update and Project Scoping: or
(3) Project Scoping and HM Plan Amendment.
Out of Louisiana’s 64 parishes, 35 chose Project Scoping and HM Plan Amendment, 27 chose HM Plan Update and Project Scoping, 1 parish did not participate and 1 did not complete the project.
Requirements for Project Scoping and Plan Amendments Applications included:
- Completion of the State HMGP application including a description of the Pilot planning sub-grant Scope of Work
- SOW must completely describe the scoping activities using the Expanded Mitigation Strategies Cost Estimate Templates. It must also include a schedule for completion of scoping elements (For plans previously funded by a Federal planning grant, Applicants also had to include: grant type and number, total amount of the award, period of performance, breakdown of funds awarded and amount of funds expended for each section of the plan).
- Hazard mitigation Plans had to be amended to include the feasible mitigation projects identified in the SOW
- Identify portions of the “In Progress” document that need to be revised and provide cost estimates for those amendments
- Local official designated to authorize amendments or changes had to approve the amended plan.
- In addition, requirements for Project Scoping and Plan Update included the following:
- Completion of the State HMGP application including a description of the Pilot planning sub-grant Scope of Work. SOW must identify the portions of the LMP to be updated and include reference to any recent major disaster events and /or change in regulations or ordinance that the Applicant believes will necessitate changes to the plan.
- Complete the Expanded Mitigation Strategies Cost Estimate Template for the applicable project type.
- Provide a schedule for completion of all proposed HM Plan updates corresponding to the work elements identified in the cost estimate.
- Identify portions of the completed LMP that need to be updated and provide cost estimates for the update activities.
“The project was new and there was a lot of work involved. But it worked,’ Cooper said.
“It was an excellent way for us to look at where we were in identifying our risks and what to do about them,” said Justin Fontenot, City Engineer for Evangeline Parish. “It gave the parish an opportunity to really prioritize projects. We don’t have to wonder about what to do or which project to tackle first. We owe that to the Pilot Project.”
Mitigation Plans form the foundation for a community's long-term strategy to reduce disaster losses and break the cycle of disaster damage, reconstruction, and repeated damage. The purpose of mitigation planning is to identify policies and actions that can be implemented over the long term to reduce risk and future losses.
States, Local and Tribal governments benefit from Mitigation Planning by:
- Identifying cost effective actions for risk reduction that are agreed upon by stakeholders and the public
- Focusing resources on the greatest risks and vulnerabilities
- Building partnerships by involving people, organizations, and businesses
- Increasing education and awareness of hazards and risk
- Communicating priorities to state and federal officials
- Aligning risk reduction with other community objectives
For additional information visit FEMA.gov/fima.