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Mitigation Grants Prepare Communities for a Changing World

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The people of the historic town of Princeville, North Carolina, have experienced major and repetitive flooding events for decades, most recently hurricanes Fran, Floyd and Matthew.

Princeville is the oldest town incorporated by African Americans in the United States. It was established by freed slaves after the Civil War and incorporated in 1885. Like many disadvantaged communities across the nation, Princeville was built in a high-risk area, located in the 100-year floodplain of the Tar River.

The people of Princeville know that the future of their town depends on the actions they take today, so the community drafted a plan and applied for a Building Resilient Infrastructure and Community grant. In July, FEMA selected Princeville’s subapplication for further review.  This subapplication has a cost estimate of $11 million in federal funds for a project that will help mitigate repetitive loss to critical utilities (such as electricity, water and wastewater) by relocating them outside high-risk areas.

The work will incorporate nature-based solutions, creating over five acres of green open space and detention basins planted with vegetation that grows in water. These nature-based solutions weave natural features or processes into the built environment —working with nature, instead of against it.

This is just one of the $700 million worth of Building Resilient Infrastructure and Community and Flood Mitigation Assistance grant projects that FEMA has selected for the 2020 fiscal year. These mitigation grants provide resources to help better position the nation for climate change and more extreme weather. They help to reduce risk, increase resilience and serve as a catalyst to encourage the whole community to adopt policies related to mitigation.

For example, a Flood Mitigation Assistance selection in Louisiana will restore natural wetlands that provide a critical buffer to severe storms. The $19 million Lake Lery project will create a 398-acre marsh in Saint Bernard Parish—a place repeatedly struck by hurricanes in recent years—that will impact nearly 500 flood damaged properties insured under the National Flood Insurance Program.

Across the nation, FEMA selected 46 projects in small impoverished communities. Twenty-one of the projects are for federally recognized tribes. FEMA is committed to delivering our programs with equity and we look forward to continuing to see the number of projects in these communities grow over time and supporting these communities with building capacity and capability.

We know that many small communities may not have the capabilities or resources to develop their projects so we provide non-financial direct technical assistance. For Fiscal Year 2020, we selected eight communities to provide support for both project or application-specific needs and community-wide resilience needs.

Another project in Sonoma County, California, was selected for further review with a cost estimate of $49.3 million to help reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires.

In the last five years, wildfires have taken 24 lives, destroyed almost 7,000 structures and burned over 300,000 acres in Sonoma County alone.

The project includes plans to create buffers to decrease spread and absorb impacts of approaching wildfires using fire resistant construction materials. The project would also fund hazardous fuels reduction activities across 5,410 acres. The number of structures protected by these activities is estimated to be 6,498.

Because of climate change, many natural hazards are expected to become more frequent and more severe. Reducing the impacts these hazards have on lives, properties and the economy is a top priority for communities like Princeville, North Carolina, and Sonoma County, California.

FEMA will continue to incorporate equity into their mitigation grant programs and encourage innovative mitigation projects that include nature-based solutions, that will help combat climate change, reduce flood risk, improve water quality, reduce urban heat, add recreational space and more.

To learn more about these projects, apply for FEMA mitigation grants and learn how your community can implement nature-based solutions, visit the Mitigation Grant page.