The Kenai Peninsula Borough's Project Impact was named one of the top 10 such programs in the nation by the Federal Emergency Management Agency recently.
The borough was recognized as a "Star Community" on Nov. 15 at the Project Impact summit in Washington, D.C. The local Project Impact was chosen over 17 others in its region, which includes Alaska, Washington, Oregon and Idaho.
"We are pleased to recognize the Kenai Peninsula Borough as a Project Impact Star Community," said David de Courcy, director for FEMA's Region X, in a prepared statement. "(The) Kenai Peninsula Borough exemplifies what every community can achieve when it works together to reduce the devastating effects of disasters."
The borough's Project Impact program was honored for its Fire Wise and flood mitigation programs, as well as increasing the disaster resistance of suspended ceilings and computers in the schools.
"This is the Project Impact Emmy's," said Kathy Scott, program coordinator.
She said the award will cement the idea of disaster mitigation in the minds of borough decision makers.
"I don't think a community can change after becoming a Project Impact community," she said. "It isn't as if the Local Emergency Planning Council or Department of Emergency Management weren't thinking mitigation, because they were. But Project Impact brought it to center stage."
FEMA Director James Lee Witt agreed.
"Project Impact is about saving lives, protecting property, protecting the economic and social fabric of communities and saving citizens the heartache of disaster," he said in the press release announcing the borough's Star Community award. "Communities like the Kenai Peninsula Borough are making great strides in educating and protecting its residents from disasters and shine as an inspiration for other communities to follow."
For being a Star Community, the borough will receive an emergency electrical generator from FEMA that can be used wherever temporary power is needed.
Scott said the work Project Impact has helped with in Seward on flood mitigation helped win the award.
She said Project Impact provided $56,000 to help rebuild the city's main lift station, so that it works better during floods. The project included building an addition to the lift station above the flood stage to house a new 175,000-watt generator to run the pumps.
Project Impact has also been instrumental in helping with the implementation of the Fire Wise programs in peninsula communities. The Kenai Fire Department recently won an award from the Alaska Municipal League for its Fire Wise program, which cleared spruce bark beetle-infested trees from residential areas. The program received a grant from Project Impact for slash removal and disposal.
While FEMA provides grants to start up Project Impact programs around the nation, it does not supply continued funding over an extended period of time. Kenai's Project Impact office will close at the end of March when its funding comes to an end.
"It is FEMA's hope that the money they provide would be used as seed money," Scott said.
She said she would not speculate on whether the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly or the administration would continue the program, or roll it into the Office of Emergency Management.
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