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September 2, 2009 > Local hazard mitigation plan in process

Local hazard mitigation plan in process

By Meenu Gupta

Prevention is better than cure. A major earthquake is overdue along the Hayward Fault. The Association of Bay Area Governments' (ABAG) multi-jurisdictional Local Hazard Mitigation Plan (LHMP) coordinates local-government to mitigate losses from a major natural disaster.

Union City Council discussed the strategy developed by ABAG which taking the lead to update the plan as required by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). More than, 97 cities, including Union City, counties and special districts are participating in the 2009 update.

The LHMP's goal is to develop a disaster-resistant region by reducing the potential loss of life, property damage and environmental degradation from natural disasters while speeding economic recovery from catastrophe.

The greatest potential hazard facing the Bay Area is earthquake causing ground shaking, fault ruptures, liquefaction, landslides, tsunamis and secondary impacts such as the loss of dams, potential fires and damage to infrastructure like roads and houses. Research indicates over 155,000 uninhabitable units are expected in future Hayward or San Andreas earthquakes.

Weather-related hazards, flooding, landslides, wildfires (including wild land-urban interface) and climate-change impacts were all considered in the strategies developed by ABAG for review by the local jurisdictions who are participating in the plan. ABAG has compiled several maps, available on their website, that indicate what the hazards really are, that show over 55 percent of the land within the nine-county region is urbanized and is susceptible to violent shaking during an earthquake. ABAG also has liquefaction maps; about 6 percent of the urbanized area within the nine counties around the Bay is highly susceptible to liquefaction.

LHMP is organized into eight commitment areas which are related to the services supplied either directly or indirectly by local government - infrastructure, critical lifeline facilities, health, which includes hospitals, clinics, housing, economy, government services, education, environment and land use. Mayor Green suggested the inclusion of private education institutions in the discussion.

After analyzing the strategies, ABAG has set priorities, even if the program already exists and no additional money is needed for it, or if it exits but needs additional funding. Priorities have been set as high, moderate, under study, not applicable or not yet considered.

"Staff identified a significant number of the strategies as 'existing programs" that are consistent with, or exceed, the regional priority. Other strategies were identified as "moderate" because the City lacks the funds or staff to implement the program," said Economic & Community Development Director, Joan Malloy. "The regional priorities can be changed or accepted by individual jurisdictions. We are accepting public comments on strategy priorities."

Mitigation is not about increasing emergency-response capability. It aims to take actions to reduce or eliminate the impact of future disasters.

"It isn't intended to buy more fire trucks. Mitigation is intended to establish programs within the community to minimize the impacts of hazards before they happen," Malloy clarified.

ABAG's executive board will meet on Thursday, September 17 at 7 p.m. at ABAG offices, 101 Eighth Street in Oakland to discuss regional priorities for mitigation of natural hazards impacts and the priorities for ABAG itself.

Union City's strategies are due on September 30. ABAG will submit the entire plan to FEMA on October 22, 2009. Upon FEMA approval, the City will adopt the plan within one year.

For more information or to comment on the list of priorities, visit the Union City website at www.UnionCity.org or http://quake.abag.ca.gov

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