Cities offer input for county hazard mitigation plan update

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By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times Editor

Communities around Clayton County held meetings in August, while others plan to meet in September, to offer input for the county’s hazard mitigation plan, which will be updated this year for the first time in five years. 

The county received grant funding to cover the cost of updating the plan, which is required for entities to receive federal funding in case of a disaster. 

“If [communities] want any kind of federal funds, they have to participate and have an active hazard mitigation plan in place,” explained Jennifer Walker, project coordinator with East Central Intergovernmental Association (ECIA), of Dubuque. Walker said she has written hazard mitigation plans for seven years through ECIA, which was contracted by Upper Explorerland to perform Clayton County’s updates.

Walker was at the Monona Community Center Aug. 25, helping city and public safety officials from Monona and Luana through the process of determining and ranking the hazards that could affect their communities. Each hazard was considered based on:

·probability—the likelihood an event could occur

·magnitude—how much of the city’s population and property is vulnerable to the hazard, an assessment of the severity to life and infrastructure

·warning time—the amount of notice before the event will occur

·duration—how long the hazard lasts

·spatial extent—how much of the jurisdiction is affected

Some hazardous events, like hurricanes, tsunamis and avalanches, were taken off the board for Clayton County, Walker noted. 

“Earthquakes and landslides could happen, but you’re not going to do a lot of mitigation efforts on those,” she said. 

However, issues like storms, tornadoes, drought, flooding, transportation incidents and hazardous materials could more easily and prevalently affect the communities.

A new hazard communities have to consider this time around, said Walker, is disease, whether affecting humans, animals or plants/crops.

“It could have a serious economic and public health impact,” she said.

If a hazard has a higher rate of occurring, Walker said there should be mitigation actions to deal with it. 

For some events, though, like a train derailment or chemical spill, there is little warning.

“Our biggest concern is the railroad,” stated Luana Mayor Jerry Schroeder. “That could be pretty serious, especially with what’s on [trains] anymore. 

“If you have a tornado, you have a tornado. If you have a derailment, who knows?”

Monona Mayor Barb Collins said train derailments are also a concern in Monona. With the city’s close proximity to Highway 18, she said chemical spills from semi accidents are a worry, as well.

“Mitigation is a hard thing because you have to figure out what to do to prevent something from happening,” Walker said, noting that cities already have emergency disaster plans in place to deal with disasters after they happen. 

Walkers said, for communities that faced continual flooding, mitigation responses included developing the lock and dam system and buying out homes in the flood plain. Other mitigation efforts could include having generators and backing up important city files and data located on computers. For weather hazards, like tornadoes, she said a tornado siren or safe shelter/room are good mitigation options.

If a community has new construction or renovations taking place, Walker said FEMA grants are available for adding a safe room into the project as long as a good number of people could easily get there in the event of a storm.

Once Walker has collected hazard data from all the communities and townships within the county, she said she’ll write a draft of the updated plan, then return to the communities for another meeting. At that time, she will ask any additional questions and add anything of relevance that came up in other communities. 

The public will have 30 days to comment on the plan, which aside from mitigation activities, will also list and map critical facilities within communities. Governmental entities will approve the plan via resolution.

Before going to FEMA, Walker said the hazard mitigation update will go to the Department of Homeland Security. The review process will take several months.

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