PINEDALE – Community members gathered to join a proactive movement toward future risks and hazards that may impact Sublette County at a mitigation meeting at the Pinedale Library Wednesday evening.
The meeting was led by AMEC Foster Wheeler project manager Jeff Brislawn, with Sublette County Emergency Management coordinator Jim Mitchell also present to field questions and provide insight to attendees.
The last time Sublette County put an emergency mitigation plan into place was back in 2007. Plans only remain active for five years, so the previous plan expired in 2012.
The main reason to have a plan in place, Brislawn said, is because it is a requirement for certain Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funding.
“The intent is that you’re being proactive about things that could happen,” he said. “You’re trying to lessen the impact so FEMA doesn’t have to come in with their responsive recovery and the federal tax dollars to help a community recover from a disaster.”
By addressing issues that may arise in a pre-disaster environment, he said it is possible to find out how to minimize impacts when a disaster does occur. One added benefit, he noted, is the federal government funding to implement some of the projects.
“You can’t get funding if you don’t have a plan,” he said.
As Region 5 gears up to get a hazard mitigation plan in place this calendar year, Brislawn began by reviewing results from a recent online survey given to citizens within the region. Region 5 encompasses Sublette County, Fremont County and the Wind River Reservation. The survey is ongoing, and at the time of the meeting had 54 responses from Fremont County, 10 from Sublette County and four from the Wind River Reservation.
A risk assessment is complete, and the current phase is to develop a mitigation strategy, Brislawn said.
Feedback from the survey showed that drought, extreme cold, flood, wildfire, wind and winter storms ranked highest in terms of what could impact the region in an adverse manner.
When asked what types of mitigation actions to consider for the regional plan, most marked flood reduction and drainage improvement, evacuation route development and public education.
He says a public review draft should be out in June, while a finalized plan will be sent to FEMA in July. They anticipate approval from FEMA in September, with the plan induction expected to occur in October or November.
In the midst of the meeting, Brislawn took community hazard input from the audience, where attendees’ main concerns included flooding and fire hazard reduction. With last summer’s Cliff Creek Fire charring more than 34,000 acres just north of Bondurant and recent low elevation snowmelt causing patchy flooding throughout the county, these concerns were actively on the minds of residents.
Brislawn said not a lot has been added to the plan that was in place from 2007-2012, except for minor additions. The big takeaway is that this plan is being worked on now to assist with future hazards that may arise in the county.
When notifying locals of existing or upcoming, Mitchell said communication is key. Sublette County Emergency Management uses a notification system through AlertSense, where locals can stay in the know by receiving text messages, email and calls to land line phones. He said between 400 and 500 people are signed up for the alerts, adding the responsibility is in local citizens’ hands to get on the list. Mitchell says it usually takes an event such as a wildfire or flooding to push people to sign up.
“It’s beautiful to live here and it’s wonderful to live here,” Mitchell said. “But there’s a cost to that, too.”
To sign up for these emergency alerts, go to http://public.alertsense.com/SignUp/.