Plans begin to create natural disaster mitigation

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WATSEKA, Ill. (WCIA) — The city is creating a plan to prevent natural disasters from wiping it out.

This is a much needed course of action after record flooding swept through in February 2018. Flood damage forced many people out of their homes and other past natural disasters have caused even more problems in Watseka.

The city has the chance to get hefty grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), but first they have to prove they’re qualified.

There was a meeting Thursday afternoon to kickstart this. Dozens of people showed up. In order to apply for the FEMA money the city has to establish its track record with natural disasters and have a determined course of preventative action in place.

Alderwoman Monna Ulfers says, “These disasters are unpreventable, there’s nothing we can do to stop them.” Floods, ice storms, tornadoes and other severe weather can set destruction in motion. Massive flooding washed out neighborhoods in Watseka. Almost two years later, Mayor John Allhands says the city is still trying to recover and “Some people have been in limbo since the 2018 flood because we didn’t have any of the assets, money or resources to do something.”

The Illinois Emergency Management Agency agreed to pay for the city to develop a plan to combat the damage when storms sweep through. The process is being expedited. Mayor Allhands says, “Under the normal circumstances this would take about eighteen months. We’re looking at getting this done in seven months.”

The Watseka Hazard Mitigation Planning Committee was formed to identify projects that will reduce the impacts to people and property before severe weather strikes. Mayor Allhands says, “We have a berm around our water sewer treatment plant now, but with this record flood, the water got really close. So this might help us to put up a flood protection wall.”

Alderwoman Ulfers says this money will help repair the past and help fix the future. “We’re not going to get rid of the problem with the flood. So we have to figure out how we’re going to move forward.”

Right now, it’s unknown how much money the city would get from this. A state grant paid for a consultant to create the natural hazard mitigation plan. That cost about $30,000.

There will be three more natural hazard mitigation meetings. The next will be on December 19th at 5:00 pm. Anybody is welcome to attend. The last will be a public hearing. The date for that has not been set yet.

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