FEMA funds available for select West Marin home-elevation projects

03/13/2019

A small number of West Marin residents whose properties lie within the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s designated “special flood hazard areas” may be eligible for federal funding to support home elevation projects. At a meeting at the Point Reyes Library on Tuesday night, county planner Alex Westoff and planning manager Jack Liebster spoke with interested property owners about the funding—part of a $3 million grant awarded to Marin County for its larger efforts to combat sea-level rise—and the ways in which it can be used. County code requires homes in unincorporated areas to be at least 1 foot above “base flood elevations,” or the elevation that floodwater is expected to reach during a base flood—a hazardous flood event with a one percent chance of occurring in any given year. For homes near the shoreline, the recommended elevation is two feet above the base flood elevation to account for future sea-level rise. The FEMA grant will provide funding for up to 75 percent of elevation costs to eligible homeowners, who must be able to pay the remaining 25 percent. (The county has said that if a resident falls within the federal low-income threshold, it will explore funding sources for the homeowner’s share.) The costs of elevation projects cannot exceed $243,337, and the grant money can be used toward permitting, relocation costs and construction costs. All work must be done by a qualified, licensed contractor. Lori Kyle, who has a home in Marshall, asked during the workshop if the county had considered aiding residents of modest means by offering low-cost loans similar to the ones made available during the installation of Marshall’s community wastewater system. Mr. Liebster replied that such a plan “isn’t [there] now, but [is] something we could definitely work on. The [Board of Supervisors] is interested in equity in this process.” Residents have until March 22 to submit an elevation worksheet to the county to register their interest and determine their eligibility. Completed applications must be submitted to FEMA by April 18. Mr. Westoff encouraged residents to reach out to the Community Development Agency with questions, or for help determining whether they reside in a special flood hazard area. He noted that he was unsure when he would be notified of FEMA’s funding decisions, saying that, given the agency’s lengthy review process, “it could be a year or two before we find out.” The county has estimated that up to 16 homes could receive the funding. Should more than that number apply, the projects will be ranked according to criteria that could include annual income and flood risks. “There has been a fair amount of hazard-mitigation funding lately; we’re looking at this grant now, but that doesn’t mean we won’t be looking for more down the line,” Mr. Westoff said. “This isn’t a one-shot thing—we encourage people to keep trying.” Point Reyes Station resident Roy Pitts on Tuesday underscored the importance of raising structures. He had just returned from Guerneville, where he said the contrast between homes that had been elevated and those that had not was striking. “There were smiling faces from those who had, and frowny faces from those who had not,” he said. To learn if your property falls within a special flood hazard area, visit marinmap.org/Html5Viewer/Index.html?viewer=smmdataviewer.