Leelanau News and Events

Updated County Plan Unlocks State and Federal Relief

By Art Bukowski | Feb. 23, 2024

An updated plan designed to expedite recovery in the case of natural disasters is circulating around the county for adoption by local municipalities.

And while the lengthy and robust Leelanau County Natural Hazard Mitigation Plan does outline ways to minimize the impact of wind storms, blizzards, floods and much more, its arguably larger value is unlocking state and federal dollars to aid in recovery efforts.

“In order for a local municipality like a county, village or township to be eligible for certain types of grants, they must have a plan like this approved by the state and federal government,” Leelanau County Emergency Management Director Matt Ansorge tells The Ticker. “So the county took it on in order to have this all-encompassing plan, and as long as all the municipalities adopt it, then they're covered under the county plan.”

A previous iteration of the plan, for instance, was critical in securing funding after the August 2015 “storm of the century,” Ansorge said.

“Of everything that we spent in 2015, we received back 99% of all the eligible funding. So that was a big, big assist at the end,” he said. “Not only did the state come up and help us with resources to take care of debris and all that stuff, but then we were able to recoup the costs of all the manpower, facilities and equipment. Had we not had that plan in place, we would not have been able to recoup those costs.”

Work on the 200-plus page report (an update of the previous version) began in 2019, Ansorge says, but was sidelined due to COVID. In addition to reams of excellent demographic and geographic information, the report outlines the types of hazards faced by the county and how to protect against them. After all, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

“Every area throughout the country is impacted by natural disasters, and there's a lot of money and energy and resources that are pulled into recovering from those disasters,” Ansorge says. “It’s better for us to mitigate against those so we can recover quicker and to respond to these kinds of emergencies a little bit easier.”

The report also contains what appears to be a relatively exhaustive history of disasters than have struck the county over the years, along with (in some instances) monetary damages and injuries.

Participation from various municipalities and other organizations was key, Ansorge says, in order to get a handle on what each community needs.  A “Community Vulnerability Analysis” in the plan helps break down hazard risk by community.

“They all had some input into the plan so their concerns were heard and they could talk about things impacting their areas,” Ansorge says. "Shoreline erosion is not as much of a concern in Solon Township around Cedar, for instance.”

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Emergency Management and Homeland Security division of the Michigan State Police have already signed off on the plan, Ansorge said. The last step is adoption by various municipalities.

Elmwood Township recently adopted the plan last week. Supervisor Jeff Shaw is glad to have it in place.

“These things are great because they do allow you to get some grants that you otherwise might not be able to get,” he says. “It’s kind of like a recreation plan or master plan or those type of things. When funding agencies are looking to see who they’re going to fund, having these things in place gives you a much better opportunity.”

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