USA: Is Texas leading on disaster preparedness? Yes and no, experts say

Source(s)
The Texas Tribune

By Kiah Collier

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During their first session since Harvey — a close second to Hurricane Katrina on the list of costliest tropical cyclones in U.S. history — legislators have filed dozens of bills this year aimed at storm recovery, response and preparedness. And they appear poised to withdraw billions from Texas’ historically flush emergency savings account to bankroll a variety of disaster-related items — measures that disaster response and flood control experts say are rare for any state, but especially historically frugal Texas.

Much of the money would go to school districts that saw sharp declines in property values and student enrollment after Harvey and to state agencies that diverted resources to respond to the storm. But most of it would go to help communities finance overdue flood control projects — and to help them secure billions more federal recovery and flood mitigation dollars.

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Chad Berginnis, executive director of the Association of State Floodplain Managers, said it appears that few — if any — states maintain such a statewide wish list of flood control projects, though he said recent research indicates that at least a dozen states help communities pay for them in one way or another. It’s always a positive when states “step up and own part of the flood risk management problems happening in their own state,” Berginnis said.

But he suggested other states are much farther ahead when it comes to managing flooding. For example, he said Illinois pays for floodplain mapping to identify high-risk areas — an initiative the federal government typically handles — and has stricter regulations for development within them. Minnesota does all of those things, Berginnis said, while also offering a program that gives communities grants to use as local matching money to help draw down federal funds or to do projects on their own.

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