(TNS) - Nueces County, Texas officials hope a major hurricane like Katrina never hits the Coastal Bend, but they are preparing a plan to be ready just in case.
Nueces County, Agua Dulce, Corpus Christi, Petronila, Port Aransas, Robstown and the Port of Corpus Christi Authority have worked together for about a year to develop the 800-page FEMA Hazard Mitigation Action Plan or Nueces County Multi-Jursidictional Plan by recording, summarizing and analyzing past incidents in the area.
The plan is still in a draft phase, but is open for public review, comment and suggestions until May 5 at the county courthouse. All comments will be considered for inclusion in the plan before it's finalized.
"It's necessary for us to be in long-term planning for our county, and we chose to do this together and have worked through this planning process on a very accelerated style," said Christopher Boyce, Nueces County emergency management coordinator. "It's a living, breathing document, and it's not just going to sit on a shelf. The planning process we have developed and the partnerships we've had across different jurisdictions mean we will look at this annually."
The new plan is due this September, Boyce said in January. National engineering firm Lockwood, Andrews and Newnam, Inc. has been hired to compile it.
Under the Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000, the plan is used to prevent and reduce future losses to lives and property, to identify cost-effective ways to get an area back to normal, to build partnerships by involving stakeholders and the public, and to leverage more FEMA funding, Project Manager Janine E. Ellington said in January.
"Basically, we know South Texas (has a problem) with water — whether we have enough or not enough of it," Boyce said.
The plan only will identify natural hazards like floods, hurricanes/tropical storms, wildlife, tornadoes, drought, coastal erosion, earthquake, hailstorms, lightning and dam/levee failure. Natural hazards are the only ones recognized by FEMA, Ellington said, but other hazards can be planned for, including pipeline rupture, chemical spills, cyber attack or the effects of climate change.
"This is a history of all the bad things that have happened because of nature in Nueces County, and it summarizes what has happened to us," Boyce said. "It shows where we have vested interest in critical facilities, or where we know growth will happen and what we can do to ensure that, based on what we've learned from the past, those things will not happen again here."
The emergency management office also will monitor population growth and migration and change the document to fit. It needs to be thoroughly updated every five years, but can be changed any time. Changes also can happen if state or federal law changes.
According to state law, County Judge Loyd Neal is the county's emergency management coordinator, which means the commissioners court has authority to activate certain mitigation plans to avoid disaster.
"This gives us a good road map, but hopefully we'll never have to use it," Neal said. "But if we do, we'll have a place to go."
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