PENDER COUNTY — After missing the first round of FEMA hazard mitigation funds awarded to 14 local governments earlier this month, the county has received funding to purchase 25 properties in flood hazard areas and convert them into natural floodplain areas.
On Thursday morning the county announced it had received notification from the North Carolina Department of Public Safety (DPS) that 25 properties have been selected for buyout through FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program as part of its expedited acquisition project.
Although the total amount of funds was not included in a release from the county, Jason Pleasant, a DPS mitigation specialist who initially worked with the county on the project, said last week that it would total $4.9 million for 25 properties. This would be second only to Jones County, which received $6.2 million for 31 properties.
“Pender County is pleased to be able to assist our citizens through this long-term recovery process and looks forward to additional opportunities,” Pender County Planning Director Kyle Breuer said. “These mitigation actions will help us meet our goal of becoming more resilient from future storm events.”
The expedited acquisition project is designed to remove vulnerable properties from the Special Flood Hazard Area as quickly as possible. The selected properties were severely impacted by Hurricane Florence, according to a release from the county.
After the buyout process, deeds for each property will be signed over to Pender County and land use will be restricted to the conservation of natural floodplain functions, according to the release.
“Pender County is still awaiting notification of more funding through the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program,” the release stated. “The State’s Hazard Mitigation Branch is currently reviewing applications that were submitted for acquisition, elevation and mitigation reconstruction in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence.”
Pender County Chairman George Brown said the chosen properties were at risk of continued flood damages.
“This is an important step in our long-term recovery from Hurricane Florence,” Brown said.
Initially, spokespeople for the DPS and FEMA said the county had missed the first round of funding due to delayed application paperwork. But Pleasant later clarified that Pender County’s planning department was one of the first to submit its application.
“There were no issues with the submission, no issues with the projects themselves,” Pleasant said at the time. “Of all of them, Pender’s was rock solid.”
He said the size and complexity of Pender’s project likely contributed to FEMA’s delay in rewarding the money.
“They really know what they’re doing down there … [The delay] kind of upset our office because we know how hard Pender worked and how good they are at putting this stuff together,” Pleasant said. “They were the least of our worries.”
Mark Darrough can be reached at Mark@Localvoicemedia.com