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St. Ignatius begins pre-disaster mitigation plan

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ST. IGNATIUS — During a brief St. Ignatius City Council meeting Oct. 2, Lake County Office of Emergency Management Coordinator Stephen Stanley outlined the towns need for involvement in an updated pre-disaster mitigation plan. 

Stanley explained that a pre-disaster mitigation plan identifies potential risks, threats and hazards that might affect city, county and tribal government and rates them by threat level. Both human and naturally caused threats are considered. 

According to Lake County’s current PDM, the highest-rated natural hazard in the county is wildfire followed by severe winter and summer weather and flooding. The highest-rated human-caused hazard is structure fire followed by hazardous materials incidents and communicable disease. 

Once these potential threats have been identified, governments with a PDM may be eligible to receive grants and assistance to take steps to avoid a major disaster. Stanley used wildfires as an example.

If wildfires were identified as a potential threat, funding and assistance could be obtained to clear underbrush and reduce the likelihood of a fire. 

“In simple terms, if you can do something ahead of time to prevent damage, you are encouraged to do that. Hence, you don’t have a bunch of money spent on something that could have been avoided,” Stanley said. 

Incorporated townships, county governments and tribal governments are required by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to have a working PDM in place. However, no government in Lake County has ever used FEMA funding or the PDM to facilitate a pre-disaster mitigation project. 

For such projects, FEMA offers to pay 75 percent of project costs, while the local township is required to pay 25 percent. 

“It’s something that we’re required to have, but if you do a PDM project, (the funding distribution is) 75-25. A lot of the time, we can’t come up with that (funding) in this part of the country,” Stanley said. 

Five years ago, Lake County and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes created their first plans. While they were separate plans adopted by separate entities, they had a similar framework to help streamline the decision making process for elected officials or Tribal Council members in the event of a problem. 

“Certainly, the county can’t tell an incorporated city how to handle something ... they are all distinct governments, so they make their own decisions,” Stanley said. “It makes situations, projects and problems easier to deal with if everyone has the same framework.”

Starting a year and a half ago, Sanders County, Ronan and Polson participated in the planning process for the updated PDM. Stanley said St. Ignatius did not participate in this planning process, as they had a change in governmental leadership at the time and, “the schedule didn’t work out.”

“The reason I was in St. Ignatius (for the meeting) was that FEMA felt very strongly that St. Ignatius should be in the loop,” Stanley said. 

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