NEW RICHMOND, OH - New Richmond, a small, historic Ohio village about 20 miles upriver from Cincinnati on the Ohio River, is no stranger to flooding. Its flooding history is most eloquently told in pictures.
New Richmond is also a town of resilient Ohioans who want to keep their history alive and thriving. So they looked for ways to learn from the past and stop the cycle of destruction and reconstruction.
During the 1996 and 1997 floods, a new way of dealing with the aftermath of flooding and other disasters had come into being – the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP). Initiated by the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and administered by state partners such as the Ohio Emergency Management Agency (Ohio EMA), HMGP provides funding for projects that will reduce damages from future disasters.
FEMA provides 75 percent of HMGP funding and provides technical assistance to the states in implementing an HMGP project. The states administer HMGP and determine what type of projects (i.e., acquisitions or elevations) will be funded. In acquisition and relocation projects, the properties acquired are turned into green space in perpetuity.
New Richmond applied and became a participant in HMGP acquisitions projects based on January and June floods in 1996 and a March flood in 1997. Altogether, the projects acquired 43 structures, the lots they were located on and five bare lots for about $1.9 million. These repetitively damaged structures permanently were removed from harm’s way and the village now has a green space along the river that has become a village gathering point.
While the HMGP projects were a boon to New Richmond, it also came - as any new government program would - with its own issues to meet and overcome.
The experiences of New Richmond Village Administrator David Kennedy, who was new to the village at the time of the1997 flood, is illustrative of the challenges an administrator would face with the HMGP program. These challenges also were met by constructive solutions that may help other HMGP project coordinators deal with issues that crop up.
New Richmonders know the Ohio River will rise again and that parts of New Richmond will flood when it does. But because of HMGP and other local initiatives, New Richmond is much better prepared to deal with flooding than ever before. Mitigation works.