A new federal program could be embraced by Southold Town that would prove proactive in mitigating disaster during future storms.
On Tuesday, representatives of the National Disaster Recovery Framework, a new program under the auspices of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, met with the Southold Town board at a work session to discuss the initiative.
NDRF pulls together federal agencies to work together in a collaborative effort, focusing not only recovery for disaster-impacted areas -- but on projects that can shore up infrastructure to prevent from future damage during storms still to come.
Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell said he has been working with FEMA officials on a regular basis since the recovery efforts after Hurricane Irene.
"We have good contacts and healthy dialogue so they asked me if they could come before the town board to discuss this new plan," Russell said.
NDRF reps plan to go before other boards of elected officials on Long Island, as well.
Currently, FEMA funding exists in the form of direct reimbursement for costs associated with the damage caused by disasters such as Superstorm Sandy.
"This means that any man hours, costs of debris clean up and restoration of damaged assets, like roads or beaches, etc. are eligible for funding from FEMA," Russell said. "The standard that is used is to restore the public assets to 'pre-storm' standards," meant to restore damaged areas to their pre-storm state.
The new NDRF funding, Russell said, would provide funding as an investment in the future -- to reduce the likelihood that roads, beaches and other town assets would not be destroyed again during the next story.
"The whole idea is based on the premise that if FEMA helps us make investments now to protect assets from future damage, they would limit their costs and liabilities on having to pay the costs of restoration later," Russell said.
For example, the supervisor explained, Town Beach in Southold was washed out and eroded during a winter storm two years ago.
"Typically the reimbursement would be to restore the beach so that it looked just like it did before the storm. The problem is that when the next storm comes the same thing is going to happen. FEMA finds this approach to be costly and repetitive. That agency is right. How many times can they keep reimbursing for a beach that is prone to erosion every time a major storm hits?" he asked.
The idea of the new program would be to consider what engineering changes might be made so that erosion does not happen in the first place. Rock revetments and other measures are the types of "investments" you can make now to ensure future repetitive costs down the road are avoided, Russell said.
"The idea of this new program is to work with FEMA and other agencies to make our infrastructure less prone to damage in storm events. Make investments now and prevent long term recurring costs down the road," he said.
NDRF reps said federal agencies would come together and find funding to finance various programs in towns and villages.
Projects are considered with an eye toward keeping municipalities resilient and sustainable, according to NDRF.
After a visioning process with local planning officials, grant funding can be explored, they said.
Town emergency coordinator Lloyd Reisenberg said one project that might be explored would be new generators for town facilities and schools.
NDRF reps said they would like to hold an introductory community planning meeting for brainstorming purposes.
NDRF would be engaged at no cost to Southold Town.
Councilwoman Louisa Evans said the new program would save money down the line, with a reduction in the amount of emergency funds needed after a storm.
Russell said another issue that might be considered in Southold Town is the damage done to private homes during disasters.
Funding would come from both community bloc grants and mitigation monies.
The town board agreed to move forward and have NDRF represenatives meet with town planners to see how the program might prevent a repetitive loss situation in the future.