JeffCo commissioners have high hopes for elevating houses

Published 6:42 pm Monday, March 26, 2018

BEAUMONT — The Jefferson County Commissioners Court is putting together a “wish list” for future flood prevention.

The 404 Hazard Mitigation Grant Program will consider $228,452,000 worth of projects to be submitted to the state of Texas for Hurricane and Tropical Storm Harvey. County Judge Jeff Branick explained the grant will fix structures directly damaged by the storm. The discussion was part of a workshop Monday afternoon at the Jefferson County Courthouse in Beaumont.

Given the option of either buying out a home or elevating a home, the commissioners favored the less-costlier option of elevating homes in floodplains to keep residents in the county and not losing them to a buyout. Public meetings in the county will be scheduled in the near future to discuss options with the possibility of amending some projects.

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The county’s standard is one foot above the 100-year flood level.

Auditor Patrick Swain described it as a competitive grant with a pot of money.

The competitive grant program is to make the county more resilient. For example, during the aftermath from Hurricane Ike first responders received interoperability repeater radios so they can communicate with different entities.

Branick said the city of Beaumont will use their grant to raise their water pumps and control systems after losing water following Harvey.

An option for the county is to make public infrastructure more resilient, such as hardening the Jack Brooks Regional Airport or placing a new roof on the Jefferson County Sub Courthouse in Port Arthur.

Some of the eligible activities include:

  • Property acquisition and structure demolition
  • Structure elevation
  • Mitigation reconstruction
  • Dry floodproofing for non-residential and historic residential structures
  • Localized and non-localized flood risk reduction projects
  • Infrastructure retrofits
  • Community safe room construction
  • Wind retrofit projects
  • Post-disaster code enforcement projects
  • Soil stabilization projects

There will be a 75-25 percent match, with homeowners paying the 25 percent.

Everette “Bo” Alfred, Precinct 4 county commissioner, cautioned homeowners any buyouts will be at the appraised value.

Likewise, Branick’s office will send a letter to different jurisdictions, such as cities, to tell them if they want to apply for a 404 or 406 grant they need to do it on their own and not rely on Jefferson County to do it for them.

Two further challenges facing the county include not knowing the exact population in unincorporated areas and waiting on the arrival of new Federal Emergency Management Agency maps to be fully implemented.