SHARP COUNTY, AR – Beginning October 29, 2009, the State of Arkansas experienced severe storms and flooding which resulted in the December 3, 2009, presidential disaster declaration for 37 counties for Public Assistance (PA). Following the declaration, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) staff visited the City of Hardy, located in Sharp County, and found Mayor Nina Thornton and Public Works Superintendent Billy Gilbearth excited over their discovery that the city’s 406 Mitigation projects worked!
“In March 2008, we had three floods in six weeks. Our sewer systems were affected. There wasn’t a question of whether we would flood again. It was a question of when will it happen,” said Thornton. “And it did in October of 2009. But this time, thanks to FEMA, we were ready.”
In 2008, heavy rains and overland flooding caused flood damage to seven sewer pumping stations, damaging pumps, piping, valves, electrical panels, electrical boxes, and controllers. The City of Hardy received assistance from FEMA’s PA 406 Mitigation Program to mitigate the pumping stations.
Adhering to 406 Mitigation guidelines, seven projects were proposed. Mitigation measures involved replacing dry well sewer pumps with submersible pumps, building elevated platforms for electrical service and panels, and raising electrical controls above high water. Eligible for funding under Category F (Public Utilities) total project cost was $604,493.27 (75 percent Federal share of $453,369.95 and 25 percent non-Federal share of $151,123.32).
The projects were completed November 2008, 11 months prior to Sharp County becoming a part of the December 2009 disaster declaration.
“After the 2008 floods came, we didn’t know what we were going to do to recover. I had no idea what mitigation was,” said Thornton. “We are a population of 754. It’s no way we could have paid for a project that worked as well as the project that worked as well as this did. The city had carried a policy on these pumps for 26 years. When we submitted a claim, it was denied. We were told that the policy did not cover below ground structures. FEMA came on board and guided us through the entire process.”
Federal funding for mitigation is available on a regular basis for pre-disaster mitigation activities and as Federal assistance following a Presidential disaster declaration. PA is a post-disaster program established under Section 406 of the Stafford Act and is jointly administered by FEMA and individual states. The amount of 406 Mitigation funds made available in any given disaster is based on a project-by-project evaluation of the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of mitigation measures. The funds provide assistance to repair the damaged elements of public facilities and infrastructure. Cost share is 75 percent Federal (except in extraordinary circumstances, when some costs are eligible for 90 or 100 percent) and 25 percent non-Federal.
Eligible projects fall into seven categories: Category A - Debris Removal; Category B - Emergency Protective Measures; Category C - Roads and Bridges; Category D - Water Control Facilities; Category E - Public Buildings and Contents; Category F - Public Utilities; and Category G - Parks, Recreational, and Other.
”We were just ecstatic over the whole thing and how it worked out. Our sites were mitigated and it has made our life easier,” said Thornton.
“Our system is now ‘high tech.’ I don’t have put on rain gear, get in a boat, and get out in the dangerous flood waters to flip off the electricity to those pumps. The stations are monitored daily. I can operate them from my cell phone. It’s as simple as that,” added Gilbearth.