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Marin gets $250K grant for disaster preparation

Marin County has secured a $250,000 federal grant to help defend against natural disasters.

The grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency will support the county’s local hazard mitigation plan, or LHMP. The Marin County Community Development Agency, the Marin County Fire Department and the Marin County Department of Public Works will share the money.

“This is going to allow us to provide the technical information that we need to be able to develop smart policies,” said Jack Liebster, a county planning manager. “Those policies will help us to prevent and avoid the consequences of natural disasters.”

The LHMP is required by law. The county’s first iteration of the plan was put into use in 2006. The plan must be updated every five years.

The funding will help emergency planners develop strategies to be included in the next update, which is expected to be completed and approved in 2023.

In the LHMP, planners will include analyses for wildfires, flood losses and rising sea levels. The document will provide plans for fire protection, elevating homes in flood-risk zones, seismic retrofitting and infrastructure reinforcement.

More funding becomes available to qualified counties after statewide disasters. For example, Marin received grants for a pilot program to elevate homes in the floodplain after the 2015 fires in Butte and Lake counties.

Liebster said that in addition to the LHMP, the county is developing what’s called a “safety element” that will be included within the county’s general plan. County staffers are working with planners from Marin municipalities to get both playbooks done, Liebster said.

Thomas Jordan, a coordinator with the Office of Emergency Services at the sheriff’s department, said this type of teamwork is unique to Marin.

“Most county LHMPs are not as holistic,” he said. “Our collaborative approach not only avoids ‘Swiss cheese planning’ at the operational area level of local government, but it opens up opportunities to do more multi-jurisdictional projects.”

“Those are critical because hazards do not respect city and town borders,” he said. “Because of the economic uncertainty we face due to the COVID-19 pandemic, coordination between jurisdictions is needed more than ever.”

The Board of Supervisors accepted the federal grant at its meeting on July 14.

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