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County multi-hazard mitigation plan to be discussed

A meeting to discuss the Archuleta County Multi-Hazard Mitigation Plan will be held at the county courthouse, 449 San Juan St., in the commissioners’ meeting room, on Thursday, March 3, at 6 p.m.

Citizens, elected officials and emergency responder personnel are encouraged to attend.

The plan is being developed by the county under the guidance of the Archuleta County Hazard mitigation Planning Committee (HMPC), with assistance from a consultant and an FEMA grant.

Archuleta County is nearing the final stages of the planning process that will help reduce the impact of natural hazards in the county and its communities. The Archuleta County Multi-Hazard Mitigation Plan will outline the risks to various hazards and strategies to reduce the impacts of those hazards before they occur. The plan is being led by county emergency management staff under the guidance of the Archuleta County Hazard Mitigation Planning Committee (HMPC), with assistance from a consultant (AMEC Earth and Environmental) and a FEMA grant.

The planning process has been underway since June of 2010 and has included the involvement of the county, Town of Pagosa Springs, Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District and fire districts. As a benefit of the planning process, the participating jurisdictions will become eligible for grant funds from FEMA when the plan is completed and adopted, which is anticipated to occur in June of this year.

Eighteen hazards have been identified and profiled using input from the planning team and other sources.

The plan has identified that wildfires, floods, landslides, winter storms and droughts can have a significant impact on the people, property, critical infrastructure and economy of the county.

A quantitative risk assessment has been completed for the more significant hazards, such as flood and wildfire, to detail the risk to the county and Pagosa Springs. Results from the flood analysis indicate that 326 structures are potentially at risk. Losses from the 1-percent annual chance flood would likely exceed $13 million in property damage. A flood in Pagosa Springs could have long-term economic ramifications. The town is susceptible to floods on the San Juan River and flash flooding on McCabe Creek. Research in the plan shows that damaging floods occur about every seven years, with major flooding every 50 years. The 1911 flood was one of the more disastrous floods in the county’s history. Landslides are another significant issue in the county and have caused recurring problems to road and utility infrastructure, and have the ability to cause potentially unstable landslide dams.

The planning team has met two times since June of last year and will meet again on March 4 at the Emergency Operations Center on Piedra Road to develop strategies that will mitigate losses from the hazards identified in the plan. Public awareness of the effort, comments on the draft risk assessment, and ideas for mitigation projects are being sought at this meeting. The county is soliciting input through a public survey that can be filled out online at http://www.acemergency.org/p/em.html.

For more information or a copy of the survey, contact Mike Legoski at Archuleta County Emergency Management, 731-4799.

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