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Creating and Evaluating a Meaningful Mitigation Strategy

Challenge

The purpose of mitigation planning is for state, local, and tribal governments to identify the natural hazards that affect them and develop a mitigation strategy to reduce potential losses from these hazards. Many communities, especially those with limited capacity, struggle to develop and evaluate meaningful mitigation strategies that match their capability and resources to carry out. This results in mitigation plans with strategies and actions that are vague, unrealistic, or that the community never intends to apply.

Solution

The Ringgold County, Iowa, Hazard Mitigation Plan takes a more realistic approach to selecting mitigation strategies. The community based its strategies on the unique circumstances and capabilities of each participating jurisdiction. Ringgold County has a population of less than 5,000. Many residents live in unincorporated areas or in towns with fewer than 100 people. Communities in Ringgold County often don't have the need or capacity to apply a wide range of mitigation actions to address their most pressing risks.

Ringgold County contracted with the Southern Iowa Council of Governments to prepare the plan, in cooperation with the Ringgold County Emergency Management Agency.

Working with Smaller Communities

Planner Jeremy Rounds found that presenting communities with detailed information up front helps engage them. Many jurisdictions don't know about the mitigation activities and policy options available to help them address risks. Rounds used each community's risk assessment to provide a list of potential mitigation actions, projects and activities that could reduce the damage from natural hazards. Each community received detailed information on potential mitigation actions, such as the following example:

Primary hazard affectedFlash flood
Secondary hazard affectedStructural failure
Other key hazards affectedHuman disease; transportation Incidents
Jurisdictions implementingMount Ayr
Issue/plan for implementationThis action can help with overall water flow, protect water and sewer lines and reduce damages to streets in areas where curb and gutter does not exist. C1t1es and County own ROW areas
Goals addressed2,4,5
Potential partnersLocal governments, property owners
Estimated total cost$20, 000 to $50,000 per year of work
Potential key funding sourcesLocal, FEMA/State, property owners, USDA, Iowa SRF program
Benefits (losses avoided)Prevention of property loss; infrastructure preservation, maintained property valuation
Clear and deepen ditched on ROWs

The initial list of actions helped focus their efforts and highlight possible projects. Rounds then worked with each community to evaluate the authorities, policies, programs and resources they would need to take these actions. This capability assessment helped communities decide whether to consider individual actions for a cost-benefit review or to eliminate them.

The example below shows how the city of Mount Ayr used the capability assessment to decide which mitigation actions would work best for their community.

Figure 4.28: Capability Analysis of Mitigation Actions - Mount Ayr

Mitigation
Action
Significant
Capabilities
Significant
Shortcomings
Solves a Problem
or Addresses a Need?
Result
Acquire and demolish
or relocate buildings/ infrastructure in high-risk areas.
FEMA strongly supports action with funding programs; Official flood maps exist but other site-specific hazards are not well analyzed.This can apply to many hazards, including flooding. Funding is limited, but proJects can be prioritized based on BCA.No - Local officials really cannot identify properties where this makes sense.Eliminate
Acquire and use conservation easements and restrictive covenants to prevent development in known hazard areas.City has authority to do this and it is relatively low-cost to acquire easements on undeveloped property; flood information is known.Other hazard boundaries are not really defined; there is not much political will or local resources to take on this kind of request.No - Local officials really cannot identify properties where this makes sense.Eliminate
Adopt and/or update a full range local codes and policies to address a range of hazard mitigation issues.Relatively low-cost option to undertake with next code update.Requires assistance from professionals skilled in law and policy.Yes - Can address multiple hazards.Consider
Adopt manufactured home development storm shelter ordinances.Is legal and can improve mitigation of hazards
in these areas if proper standards are used.
Ordinances for zoning and mobile homes exist; however, requirements for sheltering are minimal.Yes - While new mobile home "parks" are not likely, existing MHs exist.Consider

Actions that were determined to be feasible were broken down further, to help communities understand what they needed to successfully implement each action.

Current Planning MechanismJurisdictions Currently in PlaceMethod of
Incorporation
Who is Responsible or Lead?
Storm water management programMount Ary in processInclude mitigation actions related to flash floodingFloodplain manager, city clerk, EMC, county engineer

The Ringgold County Hazard Mitigation Plan shows that you don't need a lot of resources to create a meaningful plan. The process Ringgold County put into place demonstrates that with careful and considerate planning, you can get valuable input, even from smaller communities that do not have processes to identify and address mitigation needs.

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Last updated July 6, 2021