Lewis & Clark County asking FEMA for expanded flood mitigation grant

Posted at 6:55 PM, May 16, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-05 14:57:39-04

HELENA – Lewis and Clark County leaders are asking the federal government to expand a grant for flood mitigation projects in the Helena Valley.

The county previously received a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to work on redirecting storm water into the gravel pit at the Helena Trap Club. They’re now asking the agency for more than $1 million in additional funding, to replace culverts and regrade ditches along Sierra Road.

County engineer Dan Karlin said, as part of the original project, they commissioned a hydrological study that showed the planned work wouldn’t be enough.

“It revealed to us and to our consultant that we needed to expand the project in order to achieve the desired goal,” he said.

The additional work would cost a total of almost $1.4 million. The county would be responsible for providing a quarter of that money – about $350,000 – through a local match.

The matching funds would come from a $100 assessment on properties in the Helena Valley Flood Mitigation Rural Improvement District. County commissioners created the district last year, as a way to provide funding for flood mitigation projects in the Valley. The assessment will raise almost $160,000 each year.

Money from the rural improvement district is used only for future mitigation work, not for addressing active flooding.

County commissioner Susan Good Geise said this grant request is an example of the larger projects that will be possible because of the flood mitigation district.

“That is exactly what this fund has always been dedicated to; that’s what we contemplated when we first started talking to residents about it,” said county commissioner Susan Good Geise. “I think that most residents realize that, in order to make their neighborhood better and safer in the long run, that it was going to take some participation on their part.”

Karlin said he hopes to hear a decision from FEMA later this month. If the agency approves the money, he said work on the project could begin this fall. County leaders hope to finish the improvements by next spring.

Geise said the work at the Trap Club and on Sierra Road are only the first steps in addressing flood risk in the Helena Valley. She said the county will begin looking at other potential projects outlined in their Flood Mitigation Master Plan.

“That will not be the end of the story,” she said.