FEMA helps Brandon, Ripton pay for Irene damage

BRANDON/RIPTON — The Federal Emergency Management Agency in August awarded the state of Vermont’s Division of Emergency Management & Homeland Security more than half a million dollars to pay the federal share for projects tied to Tropical Storm Irene, which hit Vermont five years ago.
Among the six towns that won awards through the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program were Brandon and Ripton.
Brandon received $123,750 to supplement $1,196,533 awarded in July for Phase II of a downtown overflow relief culvert project.
Ripton received $14,848 for an emergency generator at their community shelter.
Other awards were:
$329,923 to Charleston for culvert and ditching improvements along Hudson Road; $79,460 to Richmond for a structural elevation; $11,668 to Marshfield for an emergency generator; and $96,750 to Enosburg for a culvert upgrade on the Tyler Branch.
“This was the latest, but will not be the last project to benefit from federal assistance tied to Tropical Storm Irene,” a press release announcing the money said.
The federal Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, or HMGP, provides assistance to communities to fix areas of repetitive damage and make trouble spots safer.  Making those areas more flood resistant through elevation of a building or road, larger culverts, or stronger riverbanks also helps save towns, the state, and the federal government money in repair costs over the long run.
Of the $34.5 million available for HMGP after Irene, approximately $20 million was allocated for acquisitions — buy-outs of homes and businesses damaged by Irene that were built in floodplains and vulnerable to flooding again. Of 194 HMGP applications submitted to FEMA, 141 were for buy-outs.  To date, 133 of them have been approved by FEMA, and more than 100 are completely “closed-out.” In Northfield, for example, a neighborhood of homes that had been flooded and were vulnerable to future flooding have been removed, and the land is now a beautiful town park along Water Street.
Vermont’s Congressional delegation was essential in advocating for the State with FEMA.  The State successfully negotiated with FEMA for extra time, beyond the usual one-year window for submitting HMGP grants and the “routine” 12-month-extension, for a third year, allowing for applications to be submitted right up until the third anniversary of Irene in 2014.
There is still more than $8-million of HMGP funding from Irene available, and more than $8-million in applications pending, many of them still under environmental and historic preservation review.  Applications still pending with FEMA include 7 buy-outs (2 in Ludlow and 5 in Chelsea), and 20 infrastructure projects. 

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