Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
State Hazard Mitigation Plan News Conference
July 7, 2004

Good morning. Thank you all for coming.

Joining me today are John Pennington, director of FEMA Region 10; Gen. Tim Lowenberg, director of the state’s Military Department; and Mark Kahley (KAY-lee) resource protection division manager from the state Department of Natural Resources.

We are here today to announce the approval of the state’s enhanced hazard mitigation plan. I am proud that our plan is the first in the nation approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. This achievement illustrates the great work that was done to produce a high-quality plan in a very timely manner.

All states are required to have either a standard or enhanced mitigation plan approved by November 1, 2004 to remain eligible for certain federal funding programs. So we are clearly way ahead of the curve by having ours approved in early July.

Completion of the enhanced plan resulted from the coordinated efforts of 27 state agencies. My compliments to them for an outstanding effort.

The plan also includes the work of a 22-member advisory team with representatives of various disciplines such as emergency management, land-use planning, and natural hazards. The Military Department managed the plan development process through its Emergency Management Division.

Our state could have chosen to do a standard plan, a simpler, easier plan. Having an enhanced plan will provide significant benefits for Washington state.

Our enhanced plan will result in increased Hazard Mitigation Grant Program funds following a disaster. States with enhanced hazard mitigation plans can receive funds of up to 20 percent of federal Stafford Act expenditures on a disaster. States with a standard plan are only eligible for 7.5 percent funding.

This money goes to projects that save even more money in the future. A $2.3 million Hazard Mitigation Grant Program project removed 34 homes from the Skagit River floodplain at Mount Vernon. The area was turned into a community park. Then in October 2003, a flood covered the park with more than four feet of water, but no damage to homes occurred.

There are three other benefits to having a completed plan.

First, we will continue to be eligible for permanent repair and restoration work for disaster-caused damage to public facilities such as schools, municipal water systems, and fire stations.

Since 1989, about $425 million has been spent on such repairs following disasters. The Nisqually Earthquake Program has procured $79 million in reimbursements. Included in this amount is $ 11 million to help repair and refurbish the Capitol building. You can see behind me that work is starting to wrap up on this historic building. I am looking forward to moving back in this November.

Second, we will continue to be eligible for fire management assistance grants to help the Department of Natural Resources and local agencies. These grants pay for costs of fighting wildfires that threaten lives, property, critical facilities, and watersheds, and that are beyond the capabilities of state and local government. And with this wildfire season looking to be especially severe, this funding is especially critical. We are receiving Fire management Assistance Act funds for the Beebe bridge fire in the Chelan area, which I will updating you on shortly.

And third, we will continue to be eligible for Flood Mitigation Assistance and Pre-Disaster Mitigation programs.

This assistance is vital to saving lives. For example, some work done on a child-care center in Lakewood prevented damage and injury to children and staff during the Nisqually earthquake. And a project that elevated and retrofitted some manufactured homes in a park along the Puyallup River prevented serious damage to the homes during that same earthquake. It is far better that we prevent damage from occurring than have to clean it up afterward.

I will now turn it over to John Pennington, director of FEMA’s Region 10, to discuss FEMA’s perspective on our plan.

[Invite John to Podium]

Thanks, John.

Having an enhanced plan demonstrates our state’s commitment to a comprehensive hazard mitigation program beyond what can be accomplished through the federal programs. Our plan will help communities throughout the state plan for and respond to disasters. By doing so, we can help spare individuals and families from the heartbreak of losing their homes, as well as injury and even death.

I now want to update you on the wildfires burning near Lake Chelan. The Beebe Bridge fire is currently the most dangerous fire, as it is near structures and homes. I am pleased to report that the fire did not grow overnight. The fire fighters expect to make significant progress today.
There have been about 4,000 acres burned, but the good news is that the fire is now 50 percent contained. 100 residences and 100 barns are threatened and a Level II evacuation is still in effect. 350 firefighters are attacking this blaze, in addition to 63 engines and 4 helicopters.
And as I mentioned, we will be receiving FEMA assistance for this operation.

The Pot Peak fire has now covered 7200 acres. It is 35 percent contained. Though it is a larger fire, it is out in rough terrain and is not threatening homes or other structures. There are 931 people fighting that fire, along with 31 engines and 12 helicopters.

So the good news is that we are making excellent progress on these wildfires. But the threat of fire is still very significant. We ask you to please be very careful and avoid careless acts that can ignite wildfires.

We will now take your questions.

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