Hazard Mitigation


Dear Commissioners:

During the public comment period at the start of your meeting tomorrow, April 7th, I will ask you to pull consent agenda item 3 for discussion. That item is described on the general business agenda as “Accept a contract with the Coastal Regional Commission to update the 2018 Hazard Mitigation Plan, compensation for services not to exceed $21,960, pending County Attorney’s approval.”

As background to my comments tomorrow evening, let me explain that I was the only member of the public to speak at the BOC’s October 1st, 2015 public hearing on the adoption of the “Comprehensive Multi-Hazard Mitigation Plan”. Here are the comments I read at that time:

I’m Julian Smith and I live on Saint Simons Island.
Thank you for holding a public hearing on this important document as Hurricane Joaquin churns toward the east coast.
At a meeting on Saint Simons a few days ago, I asked the more than two hundred people in the audience if any of them had read this document. I did not see any hands go up or hear anyone respond.
[Note that at this point Commissioner Provenzano indicated he had raised his hand.]
This “Comprehensive Multi-Hazard Mitigation Plan” document itself is an unmitigated hazard to easy or meaningful comprehension: more than two hundred pages long if you count the unpaginated appendices, nearly four inches thick, full of repetition, boilerplate, blather, double-talk, careless errors, and evasiveness.
What’s most scary about this document is that it’s not scary.
Let me give you one example of how it is not scary: under “Impact on People” on page 28, I find this non-threatening generalization: “Hurricanes and their associated storm surge often result in the loss of life. They rob survivors of their property, possessions and time. They pose health hazards from polluted waters, mold and fatigue. They also generate stress on people, and cause mental health strains from property damage and the loss of irreplaceable family treasures.”
I recommend that you send this document back for revision so that this passage is not phrased as a generalization but as a direct statement that the citizens of Glynn County, especially those on our barrier islands, are at risk for all those impacts from hurricanes.
I also recommend that all realtors listing property on our barrier islands be required to disclose the risk of hurricane impacts to potential buyers in addition to the requirement to disclose whether a property is within a flood zone.
Every resident on Saint Simons and Sea Island, and every potential buyer, should be given a copy of the county’s very elegant Hurricane Surge Inundation map which reveals more than ninety-nine point nine percent of those two islands will be covered by the surge from a category three hurricane.
Of course, the rest of Glynn County is not as much at risk. Only ninety-five percent of the rest of the county would be inundated by a category three storm, and downtown Brunswick would be totally inundated by a category two storm.
By the way, there is no reference in this document to the 1898 hurricane that sent a sixteen foot surge across downtown Brunswick.
Why do I single out this one hazard, hurricanes, from the many other hazards discussed in this document?
Because it is the one hazard most likely to have a real impact on our community.
And because I’ve seen and smelled and touched what hurricanes can do. As a young sergeant in the Louisiana National Guard back in 1957, I helped recover some of the hundreds of bodies swept into the bayou country by Hurricane Audrey.
On page 29 of this document, I found these words: “Land use and development trends described at the beginning of this Chapter show an increase in growth and population and a potential to exceed transportation infrastructure needed for evacuation. The region will need to continuously update the time required for evacuation . . . from the barrier islands particularly St. Simons and Sea Island which [have] only one route for evacuation.”
Do any of you commissioners care that all this supposedly “comprehensive plan” contemplates is that the county will continuously “update the time needed for evacuation”?
Would any of you agree that a responsible county commission would read that passage and place a moratorium on accepting applications on new condo projects like Mariners Landing until such time as the county has done more than “update the time needed for evacuation”?

Following my comments that evening, the BOC approved the 2015 update without discussion.

From 3:00 to 4:00 on the afternoon of October 2nd, 2018, the BOC held a “Public Input Meeting” on the update of the “Joint Hazard Mitigation Plan”. Although I spoke at that meeting, I did not keep a copy of my comments—and no minutes or archival video are available for that meeting at which the public was invited to speak on the 660 pages of the update of the 2015 plan.

At your meeting tomorrow evening, I will encourage you to consider doing more than entering into a routine contract for a required pro-forma “update” of an unreadable document that will sit on a shelf.

In preparation for your decision about this consent agenda item, please review section “IX. LIABILITY OF CLIENT”. That section refers to “any and all suits, legal proceedings, claims, demands, damages, costs and expenses . . . arising out of . . . any failure of the CLIENT to properly carry out its responsibilities under this contract.” One such responsibility has to do with taking care to properly plan for hurricanes, tidal surges, floods, and other hazards that are likely to affect the low-lying coast of Georgia as a result of climate change and the rising sea level.

Respectfully submitted,

Julian Smith