Town gets flood grant

Leslie Silverman

Keystone has received a pre-disaster mitigation grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

According to town documents, the grant is “for completing an engineering study of the City of Keystone within Battle and Grizzly Bear Creeks.”

Town Finance Officer Cassandra Ott explains that, “what they’re going to be doing is they have Lidar (Light Detection and Ranging) data that can tell elevations fairly accurately but it gets a little mixed up when it comes to vegetation.”

The Lidar data will then be used to “map the floodway,” although as far as Ott knows this won’t be a FEMA approved map.

“They’re just going to tell us where the high risk areas are,” Ott said.

The main benefit to the town, which has Battle and Grizzly Bear creeks running through it, is increasing safety.

“It will help us manage development around the floodways so it can be done in a safer manner,” Ott said.

This includes things like knowing when to request more documentation before approving building permits.

AE2S brought this to the town as an “area of issue because of the age of Keystone’s current maps.

“The maps that we have now were done in 1972 over 1974, right after the flood,” Ott said.

The floodway changes naturally over time. Although the maps were last updated in 2014, that update is based on data from an office, not “ground truthed.”

This won’t be the final step of getting a new map but will take the town in the right direction. Ott does not see this changing any existing businesses or structures but the data has the potential to affect new construction or improvements.

“I’m excited; it’s been 2.5 years coming,” Ott said. “It’s in line with the emergency management plan for the town, which highlights flood and fire as our two big risk factors. Right now I think Keystone is making amazing strides. We got this gran to help map our floodway and we’re talking to forest service and industry people about thinning projects to lower fire risk.”

Dustin Willett of the Pennington County Emergency Management agrees that, “the importance cannot be overstated, both in terms of public safety and property damage.”

In testimony for the 2018 Disaster Recovery Reform Act of 2018 (DRRA), the National Institute of Building Science (NIBS) claimed that, on average, society saves $6 for every $1 spent through federally funded mitigation grants.

“Mitigation is our best tool/strategy for limiting the impact on people’s lives and property during disasters,” Willett said.

The town applied to the state for the grant, although the funding comes from the federal government.

“These grants are absolutely competitive,” Willett said. “However, due to actions such as the passing of the DRRA and the awareness that is being raised regarding the return on investment of mitigation dollars, grant allocations have been steadily and significantly increasing over the past several years.”

Willett cited an increase in allocation for these types of funds from $30 million in 2015 to $500 million in 2020.

According to paperwork, the federal share of the project will not exceed $101,250 and the town’s portion of the map project will be approximately $13,500.

User login