Niobrara County News

Niobrara County: Multi-Hazard Mitigation Plan

Niobrara County MHMP
Project Kick-Off Meeting
January 6, 2009

Meeting Participants:
County Commissioners, Richard Ladwig, Arlene Zerbst Rapp, Greg Starck
County Clerk, Becky Freeman
County Emergency Management Coordinator, Kester Akers
Contractor, Barb Beck

Purpose of Meeting

1) Contractor introduction
2) Review benefits of revising MHMP
3) Review the process that will be followed and commissioners’ roles
4) Validate the list of natural hazards that will be studied in depth
5) Discuss how communications will occur during the project
6) Answer any questions from the commissioners

Contractor Introduction

Barb explained that this is the fifth county in Wyoming she has worked with on hazard mitigation planning. She has also prepared plans for seven Montana counties. Two plans are still wrapping up, all others have been approved and adopted. Ms. Beck’s background is social sciences and her firm based in Red Lodge, Montana, offers a variety of facilitation, planning, and conflict resolution services.

Reasons for Revising the Plan

The bottom line goal for revising this plan is to reduce the risks of loss of or damage to property and loss of life or injury. By going through the planning process, not only do good ideas for projects emerge, but people’s awareness is raised. Updating and approving the plan also make the county and its jurisdictions eligible to compete for grant funds and eligible to receive assistance following a major disaster. The county’s plan was adopted in 2003, and FEMA requires that the plans be updated every five years. Barb handed out a one-page briefing paper about the project.

Revision Process

The process for updating the MHMP is outlined in the contract proposal and attached to the contract. The commissioners provided a copy of the land use plan. The process will use a small planning team combined with a series of public meetings. Fewer meetings will be necessary for the revision than took place to develop the original document. The process and schedule can be adjusted as needed once the project is underway. The group then brainstormed names of individuals to participate on the planning team.

Kester Akers, EM
Richard Ladwig, Commissioner
Elaine, Commissioner
Greg Starck, Commissioner
Dan Shannon, Warden
Bob Brummond, Hospital
Rick Luchsinger, Schools
Connie Baker,Senior Center
Randy Stensaas, Lusk PD
John Eddy, Lusk FD
Robert Freeman, Rural FD
Pete Pier, Lusk Mayor
Richard Schroeder, Manville Mayor
Bill Matthews, Van Tassell Mayor
Rich Zerbe, Sheriff
Jackie Bredthauer, Chamber
John Lashmett, JP Oil
Ed Rapp, NRCS
Tommy Stephens, FSA
Lisa Shaw, Conservation Dist.
Union Pacific Rep
Brian Zerbe, SAR
Corey Wilcox, EMS
Gail Mahnke, Weed and Pest
Fred Thomas, Road and Bridge

The hazard histories will be researched and written up by an engineering firm, AMEC, based in Lakewood, Colorado. Barb has signed a subcontract with them and the research is already underway. Barb will remain responsible for the overall product including the sub contractor’s work. This work will provide a factual basis for developing goals and projects.

Planning team and public meetings will be held in February and March with the draft revised plan being ready for public review in April. Barb will touch bases with the elected officials again once the goals and projects have been drafted.

Barb asked the commissioners to participate in the plan revision in the following ways; provide names for the planning team members, help determine the hazards that should be studied in depth, encourage people to participate, make county staff available to participate, participate in meetings as you are able, and finally, adopt the final plan.

Hazards to be Evaluated in Depth

The hazards that were listed in the 2003 plan included; flood, winter storm, drought, tornado, hail, thunderstorm, wind, and extreme cold. After brief discussion it was decided to add earthquakes, wildland fire, and hazardous materials. The commissioners did not see a need to add dam failure or windblown deposits, but that will be left up to the engineering firm preparing the risk assessment. The commissioners did point out that while there are many trains that pass through the county daily, 100% of the cargo is coal. Hazardous materials do pass through the county on trucks and there is an H2S hazard in the oil fields north of Lusk. The commissioners recalled a severe ice storm in the 1980’s and an earthquake that they felt in the fall of 2008. The epicenter of this quake was north of Douglas.
Communications During the Project

Barb explained that while Kester will be her primary contact for the project, she will want to keep the commissioners updated on the progress throughout the project. In order to accomplish this, she will provide a progress report each month with her invoice. The report will provide information on what has been accomplished, what is planned next, and the status of the project with respect to percent completion, budget, and schedule. This will go to Becky Freeman for distribution to the commissioners with a copy to Kester. Barb will also be providing news releases to the Lusk Herald about the project and will speak with the Chamber and Library about using a website to post information about the project online. (Note: Following this meeting, the librarian has agreed to post information on the library’s webpage.)

Barb took a photo of the commissioners for use in the plan.

Kester and Barb did a brief driving tour of Lusk, took photographs, and met with several key individuals following the meeting.