FEMA projects feels impact | TahoeDailyTribune.com

FEMA projects feels impact

In terms of disasters, it appears Douglas County is already planning ahead.

As Project Impact may take a hit from the Bush administration’s proposed 2002 budget, the local community group spun out of the Tahoe-Douglas Chamber of Commerce may be spared from cuts because it was designated prior to the budget’s passing.

But what happens once the program is eliminated remains a question the White House, lawmakers and even the project’s federal administrator couldn’t answer yet.

Project Impact communities include Nevada’s Douglas County, Carson City, Reno, Sparks, Las Vegas and California’s Oakland, San Bernardino, Santa Barbara and San Leandro. The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s goal is to sign on at least 1,000 communities to receive federal support by the end of the year.

The slashing of the FEMA-sponsored project that helps local communities prevent and deal with disasters has caused concern from U.S. senators in two of the nation’s most seismically active states.

“We feel it’s been an important program. The elimination of these funds is very shortsighted and could lead to a lot more of a loss in dollars in the long run among other problems it may lead to,” U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s spokesman Howard Gantman said.

Gantman stressed the California senator would vehemently argue for the funds during the appropriations process. Feinstein is a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

However, regaining a toehold with so many other projects in line for a piece of the pie may be a “tough road to hoe,” Gantman said.

“We need that money for these programs,” U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., said. “We’re going to have a major quake here.”

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer called the Bush move to abandon the program “unconscionable.” She points to the Seattle community averting a worse disaster from its 6.8-magnitude quake that struck the area in February.

Ironically, the Seattle group was celebrating the third anniversary of its signing on with the program when the earthquake hit, injuring 29 people.

the Democratic senator lamented a comment from Vice-President Dick Cheney on the subject.

When asked that evening on CNN about the plan to eliminate Project Impact, Cheney said: “I am not aware of that program. My guess is that it doesn’t work.”

Still, in the grand scheme of things, this program represents one in a multitude vying for funds in the federal budget, U.S. Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., insisted.

And the appropriations process is a long way off. Determinations will be made in late summer or early fall as usual.

Meanwhile, it’s business as usual for the Lake Tahoe-Douglas County Project Impact plan.

As a follow-up to its last meeting, the group plans to soon submit a federal grant application to fund education and maintenance programs that will help this region deal with disasters, Coordinator Pam Jenkins said. An example of an education program may involve a promotional campaign that essentially asks the public if it’s ready for such an event. A maintenance program may include efforts to clear brush around businesses and homes.

The group recently made a determination that Douglas County is most prone to earthquakes, fires and floods.

During its efforts, the core group has signed on the following business partners: the Tahoe-Douglas Chamber of Commerce, Douglas County Business Council, the county Community Development Department, county Board of Commissioners and the University of Nevada, Reno.

In the Bush budget, the president is also calling for reforms that would require public buildings to carry disaster insurance. States and communities that don’t will not receive federal disaster assistance. The slashing may amount to $83 million in savings.

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