- Published: Sunday, 30 April 2017 03:24
- Written by Martha Trese
By Cheryl Splain, KnoxPages.com Reporter
MOUNT VERNON — Local officials gathered Thursday to review progress made on the county's plan to reduce flooding in the area. Representatives from law enforcement, local municipalities, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Knox Community Hospital, Mount Vernon City Schools and nonprofit organizations attended.
Mark Maxwell, county Emergency Management Agency director, said there are four aspects of emergency management: preparedness, response, recovery and mitigation. “Often we are so focused on preparedness and response that we don't get to the recovery and mitigation as often as we should,” he said.
Mitigation (reducing the severity of or preventing) of flooding is important. “For every $1 we spend in mitigation, we save $4 in repair and recovery,” said Sandy Hovest of Resource Solutions, who facilitated the review. “We need to look at mitigation as our wellness check.”
Hovest also said that one in four small businesses close and never reopen after disaster damages.
Resource Solutions wrote the county's flood mitigation strategy in 2014. Federal guidelines require an annual review of the plan. Participants broke into work groups to review goals, assess progress and note any strategies that need to be added or removed.
One goal is to update flood maps and adopt, appeal or modify FEMA revisions. Brian Ball, engineer for the City of Mount Vernon, noted that FEMA is still working from a 1977 flood plain model. An example of changes from the model is that the channel of Dry Creek is probably 10 foot deeper than in 1977 and can handle more flood waters. Because of these kinds of changes, homes in the city's west end have to opt out individually. It would be better, Ball said, for FEMA to update its model rather than putting the burden on homeowners.
Another goal is to raise sections of roads and bridges that flood on a regular basis. Ball said this is being planned for the Mount Vernon Avenue bridge replacement slated for 2019. Improvements to Blackberry Alley, the city's tree removal program, an increase in the city's utility rates to improve water and sewer infrastructure, examining natural dams to alleviate problems downstream and underground power and utility lines in new neighborhoods are other efforts that comply with the mitigation plan.
Centerburg Mayor Dave Beck said the goals set for the village are at different levels of being completed. “You're never really comfortable; you're always afraid you'll forget something,” he said. “You have to be vigilant and keep on top of situations.”
Beck said an ongoing goal is working with property owners to keep brush and other debris from flowing downstream. Retention ponds to hold runoff waters are a part of the village's subdivision regulations, resident communication is done through the county's alert system and the village works with the Red Cross to identify shelter locations and comfort stations during disasters.
One goal that Beck said needs improved on is identifying and communicating with special populations within the village regarding disasters, warnings and response. “We probably need to do this little more. We have a lot of convalescent homes in the community,” he said.
From the county's perspective, Commissioner Thom Collier said “A lot of things we have done or we are in the process of doing, and we've made great advancements since this plan was created.” He noted that relationships with groups such as the Army Corps of Engineers, ODNR, townships and Knox Soil and Water District enable the county to complete a lot of the goals listed in the plan.
Hovest said that future FEMA requirements for mitigation plans include more specific weather, flooding and natural hazard definitions and descriptions, plans for maintaining a quality water supply, and a more formal community collaboration hierarchy chart rather than informal relationships such as Knox County has.
“You are doing more than you think,” she told the group. “You are making mitigation part of your normal business. The solutions you are coming up with are not boiler plate; they are creative.”