Town receives floodplain award

Published 6:00 am Saturday, August 7, 2021

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The Town of Drakes Branch has been recognized for its efforts in floodplain management.

The town was recently awarded the 2021 James Lee Witt Local Award for Excellence in Floodplain Management by the Association of State Floodplain Managers.

The Virginia Floodplain Management Association (VFMA) nominated the town due to its Downtown Flood Study and associated work.

The town has struggled for years with significant flooding in downtown, including a major flood from Tropical Storm Michael in 2018 that damaged buildings, including Town Hall and the town’s fire station.

Years of flooding has left many buildings on Main Street in need of major repair with several buildings marked as condemned.

According to VFMA, although there was a small floodplain mapped behind the downtown buildings, the majority of downtown was not mapped as a special flood hazard area, which significantly limited the town’s options for mitigation.

With help from the Commonwealth Regional Council, the town leaders were able to utilize multiple state and federal programs to address this issue.

Following Tropical Storm Michael’s destruction, the town received a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) through the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development for downtown revitalization efforts.

They were able to modify this agreement to use some of the CDBG funds as a local match for funding available through the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Dam Safety, Flood Prevention and Protection Assistance Fund.

Using this funding, the town was able to conduct a flood study of the downtown.

According to VFMA the study provided additional data that was necessary to be eligible for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Hazard Mitigation Assistance funding, as well as correctly reflect the flood risk experienced by the town.

Currently, the town is waiting to hear if its application for the Hazard Mitigation Program Grant (HMGP) funding through the Virginia Department of Emergency Management will be accepted.  With the grant, the town plans to acquire several damaged buildings to make a green space.