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By Tim Leeds 

FEMA, counties look at ways to improve and prepare for disaster

Work ongoing to reduce future flood damage in north-central Montana


August 29, 2013

Tim Leeds

Montana Disaster and Emergency Services Director Ed Tinsley, left, and Federal Emergency Management Agency Public Affairs Officer Ricardo X. “Zuni” Zuñiga stand Tuesday on a bridge at the Boy Scout Campground in Beaver Creek Park, behind a picnic table on a bar of gravel deposited by floodwater. The bridge was raised, lengthened and reinforced after flooding in 2010 and 2011 to prevent damage by flooding, and survived this year’s flood with no damages.

The federal, state and county governments impacted by this year’s flooding are pointing to some successful work stemming from the last two floods, and looking for ways to reduce damage from future floods.

Montana Disaster and Emergency Services Coordinator Ed Tinsley, who toured some work this week that was done in Beaver Creek Park as a result of flood disasters in 2010 and 2011, said preventing or reducing future disaster is a key component to recovery.

“In kind of a weird kind of a way, those other two events kind of gave us a good idea of what was possible up here,” Tinsley said Tuesday. “We knew what could happen up here. and we did some mitigation. and we actually prevented further damage in some places. And that’s what mitigation is for.”

Tom Barnard, FEMA public assistance coordinator, described work on two successful mitigation projects on which he worked in past disasters.

At the Boy Scout Campground in Beaver Creek Park, the replacement to a foot bridge washed away was lengthened, raised up and rocks put in to reinforce the footings under the bridge. That bridge survived the massive flood that occurred this year.

At the historic chapel at Camp Kiwanis, near the park offices, work was done to prevent future flooding that damaged the chapel in the midst of an effort to restore it.

Barnard said the road around the chapel, which essentially had been level with the rest of the ground, was raised about 18 inches and reinforced on the south side, basically creating a dike that prevented a repeat of that damage this year.

Park Superintendent Chad Edgar said this morning that many of the mitigation projects have prevented repeat damage this year, including at the chapel and with foot and driving bridges.

The chapel did see some water come in, but it could have been much worse, with the park office area receiving 14 inches of rain in two weeks — 10 inches in one weekend.

“It was a worthwhile project, for sure,” he said.

Some other successes he talked about were improvements to roads, such as in Mooney’s Coulee and Quarter Mile Gulch. Water bars were put in to protect cabin access roads, and they saw much less damage this year, he said.

He said other work to prepare for future disasters is on the way after this year, with the experiences in the last four years helping with that planning.

“Now we’ve seen 200-year flood events back-to-back, we can see error of our ways,” he said.

Tinsley and FEMA infrastructure Branch Director Charley Baird and External Affairs Officer Ricardo X. “Zuni” Zuñiga all stressed the importance of mitigating future damage.

“The latest studies show that for every dollar we invest in mitigation we save $4 in the future,” Zuñiga said. “That’s why it’s so important for us to look at everything when we rebuild it to make it better so we’re not back next year, or it’s not as bad next year.”

Tinsley said the disasters seem to be getting worse each year — instead of just a flood, areas are seeing massive flood events, fires are hotter and bigger, everything seems to be on an epic scale.

Zuñiga said that is one of the reasons mitigation is so important.

“If we could honestly say, ‘Oh, this isn’t going to happen for a hundred years,’ why would you rebuild it better or worry about it?” he asked. “But it is happening and that increases the importance of trying to identify mitigation efforts.”


Reader Comments


Marvelous writes:

that's a shocker; group identifies problem and does not wait for the government to fix it for them. Up here in Rocky Boy, our family took steps ourselves to 'mitigate' flooding issues on our little track of heaven. but this tribe 'allocated' their FEMA funds into who knows where while asking for more, more, more. Good for them and those who depend on them, you all are getting what you deserve. Here's hoping FEMA has the good judgement to simply walk away from you.

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