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Mitigating County Road 207: Providing a Way Out

MILLER COUNTY, AR – The vicious cycle of “damage-repair” was all too familiar a scenario for Judge Roy McNatt and his road foreman Gary Roberts. As heavy rainfalls continued to cause washouts on County Road (CR) 207 located in Fouke, Arkansas, the road crew would come out and dump loads of gravel as a “quick fix” so that local residents could gain road access. Later, culverts were relayed and rip-rap added in an attempt at strengthening the road. Not only was the project costly, it was time consuming and repetitive. To combat the cycle, the county adhered to technical advice given by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and employed suggested mitigation measures.

“There are seven homes on this road. Each time we have a heavy rain, these folks are trapped. If you live on CR 207, you have one way in and one way out,” said Judge McNatt. “We have fixed that road several times. Each time we had a heavy rain, a part of the road would get washed out. We would rent backhoes and trackhoes and would try to reclaim as much of the riprap as we could. The road was fixed and everybody was happy. Then another heavy rain comes, followed by another wash out. So, the FEMA people advised us to do a hydraulic study on the site.”

During the period of April 27 through May 23, 2009, severe storms and flooding caused a 32 foot washout on CR 207. The ends on two 48” x 30’ corrugated metal culverts were bent and undermined at one site. The hydraulic study was initiated following this event.

As a result of the study, mitigation measures were determined. The project involved replacing the two 48” x 30’ culverts with two 10’ x 40’ railroad tank cars. Larger culverts allowed for the passage of a greater volume of water. Rip-rap was also added to circumvent culvert misalignment and embankment erosion.

Initiated in October 2009, the project was funded by FEMA’s Public Assistance (PA) 406 Mitigation Program. Eligible for funding under Category C (Roads and Bridges), the total projected project cost was estimated at $24,000. The original scope of work called for the installation of multiple culverts.

A December 2009 flood event tested the value of the mitigation measure. While the project wasn’t 100 percent complete, due partly to inclement weather conditions, the railroad tank cars remained stable and allowed for the passage of rushing floodwaters.

“We are not finished with the roadwork on CR 207,” said Gary Roberts. We plan to raise the rest of the road up to the height of the road where these tank cars are.” CR 207 is a narrow, slopping, gravel road with a cul-de-sac.

FEMA’s 406 mitigation goal is to reduce the risk of damage to the same facilities in future disasters. 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 projectby-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 and 25 percent non-federal. Arkansas’ non-federal cost share is divided equally (12.5 percent for both local and state).

“We know that FEMA’s goal is not to come back and keep paying for the same project over and over again. They not only restored our road to its pre-disaster condition, they paid to make it better,” said Judge McNatt. “It was very costly to keep fixing the road over and over. It was also costly to fix it right; however, because it was fixed right this time, we don’t have to fix it again.”