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A Daily Record file photo from the May 2015 floods.

Action plan for mitigation grant underway

$24 million to be utilized to prevent future disasters
Thursday, November 14, 2019

After receiving a $24,012,000 grant this year from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the City of San Marcos is working to prepare an action plan to determine how the funds will be used. 

The Community Development Block Grant Mitigation (CDBG-MIT) funding is different from previous grants allocated to the city because it should be used to prepare for future disasters, instead of those that have already occurred. 

“This is a whole new category called CDBG mitigation funds,” Aaron Harris, community initiatives program administrator said during a presentation to City Council on Nov. 6. “And HUD defines mitigation as ‘any activity that increases resilience to disasters and reduces or eliminates the long-term risk of loss of life, injury and damage to and loss of property and suffering and hardship by lessening the impact of future disasters,.”

In 2016, $25 million was awarded to the City of San Marcos through the HUD Community Development Block Grant - Disaster Recovery Program (CDBG-DR) following the 2015 funds. 

“So as a previous allocation of DR funding had to be tied to the 2015 flood events, this allocation, HUD is asking us to focus on the impact of future disasters and the funding does not have to incorporate projects directly associated with the events in 2015,” Harris said. 

However, Harris said the city has discussed using the new mitigation funding to supplement existing DR infrastructure projects and funding shortfalls. 

Staff noted that the Blanco Riverine project is where the funding shortfall currently exists. In total, the project is lacking approximately $16 million, which could potentially be funded through the newly awarded mitigation grant. 

According to the city’s website the Blanco River project “was identified in 2017 as a means to reduce flood flows from the Blanco River that currently exit the river in the Blanco Gardens subdivision and flow through the neighborhood toward the San Marcos River.”

The mitigation grant, according to Harris, allows flexibility with the use of the funds. 

“At least 50% of the funds must address mitigation needs within the city of San Marcos,” he said. “We may expend 50% outside the city of San Marcos if we demonstrate how funds will benefit the city. So the idea here is that we can be flexible on what we do with these projects and we don’t have to limit it to projects just within the city limits as long as they benefit the city moving forward.”

Harris noted another flexible aspect of the funding is the timeline to use the grant. 

“So another thing that allows us greater flexibility with this funding is 50% of the allocation must be spent within 6 years and 100% must be allocated and spent within 12 years, so this is another intent from the federal government to  allow us the maximum flexibility on how to leverage these funds for the best public involvement,” Harris said. “With all CBD funds, 50% of the funds must benefit LMI income persons, and the planning funds are capped at 15%.”

Harris said the city currently has an active and current local hazard mitigation plan, which will be used as a guiding document in prioritizing funding. The plan was synthesized into six categories to be considered when using the grant funding: 

  • Establishing evacuation plans and improving routes;
  • Disaster shelter improvements;
  • Preservation of land in strategic upland and floodplain areas;
  • Drainage improvements to properties that have been flooded multiple times;
  • Improvements to flood and hazard warning systems; and
  • Increasing the number of warning signs and barricades at low water crossings.

The City has asked for citizen input on the six action items and received over 200 total responses. The two most popular action plan items were the preservation of land in strategic upland and floodplain areas and addressing repeat loss properties.  

Moving forward, staff will continue with stakeholder outreach in the community before developing the city’s action plan in December. After the plan is developed and translated to Spanish, residents will have a 45-day public comment period to address the plan. The final action plan will be due to HUD on March 3, 2020. 

San Marcos Record

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P.O. Box 1109, San Marcos, TX 78666