SAN LUIS VALLEY — As part of an effort to complete a Regional Hazard Mitigation Plan per requirements of the Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000 through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) guidelines, local officials have released another draft of the document for review by San Luis Valley leaders in the six counties included in the region.
According to the document, “The purpose of this plan is to provide the counties of the San Luis Valley Region, which include Alamosa, Conejos, Costilla, Mineral, Rio Grande and Saguache counties, and their associated jurisdictions, with a comprehensive hazard mitigation strategy for reducing long-term risks to people, property, and natural resources from the effects of hazard events. This plan demonstrates the region’s commitment to reducing risks from hazards and serves as a tool to help decision-makers direct mitigation activities and resources. This plan also maintains the planning area’s eligibility for certain federal disaster assistance under FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Assistance grant programs.”
This is an update to the plan that was adopted in 2017, beginning with independently formed documents by all six counties in 2017 and 2018 through work done by local emergency managers who reviewed the history of hazard events in the specific counties. Hazard events that were considered while creating these documents included avalanche, dam and drought events, earthquakes and flooding, hailstorms, severe weather and wildfire dangers, high wind, tornados and cyber-attacks as well as hazardous material incidents and potential pandemic events.
Once the individual counties finalized their specific plans, those plans were used to create the regional document which will remain a living document, subject to change as per guidelines set by FEMA. “The plan’s mitigation strategy includes goals for each county in the entire planning area. The plan also puts forth county-specific recommendations for mitigation, based on the risk assessment, that are designed to reduce future losses in each county and ultimately, in the region.”
Through this document, participating counties throughout the San Luis Valley minimize the risks associated with hazard events in the area and by doing so, can potentially minimize the costs associated with such events. “Disasters can weaken local economies and dramatically reduce local tax bases. The rising cost of natural disasters has sharpened interest in identifying effective ways to reduce vulnerability to hazards. Many disasters are predictable, and much of the damage caused by these events can be alleviated or even eliminated by implementing cost-effective hazard mitigation plans.”
Due to the location of the San Luis Valley, there is a high potential for disasters in relation to wildfire, flood, avalanche and other natural disasters. Local agencies have been working to devise this plan based on the threats of disasters within the region in hopes of preventing loss of life, property or economic impacts.
The document will be reviewed and sent back with changes suggested by local officials before the end of the year. There will be a request for public input in the coming weeks. A virtual public workshop will be held to introduce the draft plan, its hazards and highlights of the mitigation strategy and will include a presentation followed by a question-and-answer period. The plan will also be made available for public review and comment in January. Following the public workshop and comment period, the Plan will be submitted for final approvals and ultimately adoption by all involved jurisdictions.
Officials hope to have the document finalized and adopted by mid-2023.