RALEIGH — A bill is making its way through the General Assembly that offers support and funding for disaster resiliency along the North Carolina coast and elsewhere.
Rep. Pat McElraft, R-Carteret, Rep. John Bell, R-Greene, Rep. Brenden Jones, R-Robesonm and Rep. Charles Miller, R-Brunswick, filed House Bill 500 April 8. Also known as the Disaster Relief and Mitigation Act, the legislation is before the House Appropriations Committee and is in its second edition as of June 1.
Carteret County officials, looking for ways to address resiliency in the wake of several powerful storms in recent years, shave expressed support for the bill. County human resources director Jamie Long said Monday the legislation is “very proactive.”
“Any support and state funding received for disaster relief, flood resilience and mitigation legislation are welcome,” she told the News-Times.
Rep. McElraft, who lives in Emerald Isle, said the bill establishes and funds planning and resiliency implementation for flood-prone areas.
“We were able to get $2 million for living shoreline grants to be managed by the (N.C.) Coastal Federation,” she said, referring to a nonprofit based in Carteret County and dedicated to the preservation and restoration of the environment. ‘The Coastal Storm Damage Mitigation Fund is appropriated $28 million as grants to be available to all North Carolina beaches. It’s a way to make our coasts and river areas more resilient to floods and storms for damage prevention.”
NCCF Executive Director Todd Miller said the bill “would represent a major leap forwards in helping North Carolina communities reduce future flooding and do a better job of protecting our environment at the same time.”
“Developing watershed strategies to help identify, prioritize and implement flood reduction projects is very strategic,” Mr. Miller said, “and will help ensure the cost-effective use of funds spent to make our state more resilient to climate extremes. With this type of analysis, it will be possible to find nature-based stormwater management projects that will both reduce flooding and improve water quality.”
Stormwater runoff is the No. 1 non-point source of water pollution along the coast. Several municipalities in the county have been working in recent years to improve drainage, prevent flooding and reduce pollution being washed off of impervious surfaces and into local water bodies.
In addition to stormwater, coastline erosion is another issue residents and officials face. While bulkheads are a traditional method of preventing shorelines from being washed away by wave action, the NCCF encourages living shorelines to prevent erosion and the loss of wetlands that bulkheads may cause.
“This funding (in H.B. 500) will help provide cost-share for property owners to build nature-based practices that reduce shoreline erosion,” Mr. Miller said, “as well as enhance coastal water quality.
“It will be leverage with federal and private dollars to help magnify the impact of the state’s investment. We anticipate this funding could support many miles of new living shoreline projects, which will make properties less vulnerable to flooding, while providing productive fish habitats and improved water quality,” he continued.
County officials have also been pursuing similar projects. Ms. Long said the county has received Federal Emergency Management Agency grants to fund mitigation measures, reduce community vulnerability to disasters and promote vitality after a disaster.
“Additional grants that have started or are in the final stages of approval are (a) Community Development Block Grant Program and the Elevation Project Grant,” she said. “The project involves the furnishing of all materials, labor, equipment and tools for the complete elevation and retrofitting of existing structures. Approximately 11 structures in Carteret County could benefit from these programs.”
The latest edition of the bill allocates funding for disaster recovery and resiliency and establishes state systems to provide assistance to municipalities, nonprofits and others. Under the bill’s current language, the N.C. Department of Public Safety’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency would be reorganized to support resilience through various efforts:
- Hiring subject experts.
- Providing support and technical assistance to local governments, nonprofits and businesses.
- Executing multi-year recovery and resiliency projects.
- Administering funds.
- Providing disaster a recovery coordinator and public information.
- Service contracting.
- Developing and administering a grant program for local governments.
- Assembling a work group to create recommendations for the legislature on stream management and flood reduction.
The bill also calls for the appropriation of millions of dollars from the state’s general fund for various programs and projects. The proposed appropriations include the following:
- $30 million to the state Coastal Storm Damage Mitigation Fund, of which up to $2 million may be allocated to the NCCF for living shorelines, oyster reefs and marsh restoration.
- $25 million to the Natural Infrastructure Flood Mitigation Program for flood reduction projects in three to six priority watersheds.
- $20 million to create a statewide Flood Resilience Blueprint for major watersheds impacted by flooding.
- $20 million to establish a disaster relief and mitigation fund to provide grants to local governments, nonprofits and state agencies for disaster relief and mitigation projects.
- $20 million for a transportation infrastructure resiliency fund to provide grants to local governments, nonprofits and state agencies for projects ensuring transportation resilience against natural disasters.
- $20 million for N.C. Land and Water Fund grants to counties, municipalities, nonprofits and state agencies for flood mitigation and reporting.
- $10.1 million for the N.C. Resilient Communities program, along with an additional $380,763 each year from 2021-23.
Contact Mike Shutak at 252-723-7353, email firstname.lastname@example.org; or follow on Twitter at @mikesccnt.