Friday, April 20, 2018

Stillwater River Road rockslide grant in final approval stages by feds

The Stillwater River Road Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grant application is nearing the home stretch.
Last week, county commissioners, along with members of the county’s Disaster and Emergency Services (DES) and Road and Bridge departments, met with the DES State Hazard Mitigation Officer Nadene Wadsworth to discuss progress on a grant for the rockslide project.

The grant is a FEMA Pre-Disaster Mitigation (PDM) Grant. According to the FEMA website, the goal of the PDM program is to “reduce overall risk to the population and structures from future hazard events, while also reducing reliance on federal funding in future disasters.”
The PDM program is a highly competitive nation-wide grant program. States choose which projects to submit to the federal government, and then FEMA decides from that selected group which projects to fund.
Stillwater’s rockslide project is one of 10 that Montana applied for, and, at $1.86 million, is the second most expensive.
The project has been identified for further review by FEMA, and so is undergoing a final environmental review.
As Wadsworth described in the meeting, Stillwater’s application, mainly completed by county DES Coordinator Carol Arkell, featured a great deal of environmental information, making this final step faster and “seamless.”

Currently, the rockslide project is waiting for the completion of the final environmental review.
There has been only one minor set-back in this process, and that was the discovery of tipi rings at the Moraine fishing access. A tipi ring is a stone circle believed to have held the bottom of a tipi covering tight to the ground.
Moraine was to be used as a dump site for the rock from the project, but that location has now been changed to preserve the tipi rings.
Last week, the county made an agreement with Stillwater Mine to utilize an area near its Hertzler Tailings Pond as the temporary dump site for the project.
The mine had offered the use of its facilities earlier, but Moraine was chosen due to its close proximity to the project site.

Wadsworth anticipated the PDM grant will be awarded to Stillwater County in the next 30 to 60 days.
Road Superintendent Mark Schreiner expressed concerns that the crews slated for the project may only have a small window of availability, and postponing the start date may pose additional new problems.
However, the county is unable to begin on the actual rock-moving work until the grant has officially been awarded. If the crews were to begin the project early, grant funds could be potentially jeopardized if environmental requirements connected to the money were inadvertently violated.
The project will cost a total of $2.48 million, with the county’s soft matching funds at $620,000.
Funds from the county will be used for the initial phase of the project, a more temporary, five to 10-year, fix. The PDM grant would fund more permanent, 30-year, solutions to the rock sliding problem.
All in attendance – commissioners Mark Crago and Maureen Davey, Schreiner, and Arkell – expressed concerns about postponing the project yet again. They acknowledged that affected homeowners have been waiting for a resolution for a long time, and that they are doing all they can to fix the rockslide issue as soon as possible.