Originally created 06/16/04

Flood fund will add greenspace

It could be considered a death row list for flood-prone homes and a rebirth to greenspace in Augusta. The list, which details homes in flood-prone areas now registered with the city for removal, has more than 160 Augusta homes in consideration to be purchased and then destroyed.

"And I'm sure there are that many more out there," said Terri Turner, of Augusta's Planning Commission.

But exactly how many of those homes will be replaced with greenspace in the years to come to prevent flooding losses depends on the approval of the Augusta Commission for matching funds, the homeowners themselves and a new federal program that could make it harder for municipalities such as Augusta to get funding.

"I've already heard a lot of discontent over it," said Ms. Turner, referring to the Pre-disaster Mitigation-Competitive Program, which started this year. "Small districts like us have a hard time competing with the larger districts."

Previously, Augusta has received funding through the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, which designated money for states based on whether that state had a natural disaster the year before. Ms. Turner said Georgia never had a problem with that process, and Augusta benefited from it, being awarded $1.3 million and purchasing and demolishing 23 homes in flood-prone areas since 2000 at roads such as Dominion Way, Rozella Street, Golden Camp Road and Boy Scout Road.

But because some states complained after having no natural disasters and receiving no money, that program was changed this year to require municipalities to compete nationwide regardless of past disasters.

So far, the new process hasn't hurt Augusta.

The city was recently awarded $540,343 for the purchase of 13 properties in Augusta's Hollywood subdivision at Rocky Creek near Regency Mall, $494,613 for the purchase of eight other properties at the top of the city's list, and $30,000 for the city to craft an all-hazards plan, which would define the city's response to disasters ranging from a chemical spill to a tornado warning.

Still, officials hope that funding level will continue in the years to come to reduce the amount of house flooding in Augusta and to add needed greenspace.

"If we do as well as we did this first year, then I expect we'll keep on getting funding for our buyout projects until we don't need them anymore," Ms. Turner said.

Ms. Turner's department decided to focus on the Hollywood subdivision area first because it is the biggest concern for flooding.

"It's not that we're favoring them over anyone else, but they have the worst problem," she said, adding that the subdivision was built prior to the city's adoption of a flood ordinance in the 1970s.

Ultimately, she said, the goal is to obtain federal funding to purchase and demolish about 13 homes each year in the Hollywood area and 10 homes in areas throughout Richmond County.

That plan, though, is dependent on whether people sell their homes - something they're not required to do - and whether the Augusta Commission approves a 10 percent match with city funds.

Tommy Boyles, the chairman of the commission's finance committee, said Monday that it's a project commissioners support.

"I would say all of us are in support of it," he said, adding that the city's match should be included in its next special purpose local option sales tax plan.

Ms. Turner said her department is also preparing to apply at the end of this year for 2005 funds to purchase more homes. In the meantime, she said, homeowners looking to get out of a flood-prone area can contact the city's planning commission for a questionnaire to be considered for a home purchase and demolition.

"We really are desirous of knowing who's flooding, where, when and why," she said.

Reach Preston Sparks at (706) 828-3904 or preston.sparks@augustachronicle.com.


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