By Reid Forgrave
The Cincinnati Enquirer
COLERAIN TWP. - The wording is clunky - "All Natural Hazard Mitigation Plan" - but when Colerain Township becomes the first Ohio community to adopt such a plan at tonight's trustees meeting, it will mean more to the township than just another piece of bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo.
It's a preemptive strike against Mother Nature.
A federal law passed in 2000 requires all communities that don't want to lose federal and state public assistance monies to enact such a plan - which identifies areas vulnerable to natural disasters and suggests ways to keep damage to a minimum - by the end of 2004.
"What the plan says is that here are the hazards we face and here's how we should deal with them in the future for the residents of Colerain Township," said Assistant Township Administrator Frank Birkenhauer.
During the past several years, the township, Ohio's largest, has been one of the state's most proactive communities in lessening the likelihood of damage from such natural disasters as flooding and tornadoes, according to the Ohio Emergency Management Agency in Columbus.
"Flooding is Ohio's No. 1 risk across the state, especially in low-lying areas," said Sima Merick, a hazard mitigation officer with the agency.
With some 400 homes located in the bowl-shaped flood plain, most near the west fork of Mill Creek, the township has begun buying the homes and demolishing them to restore the flood plain and reduce flooding.
The township has offered to buy 15 oft-flooded homes on Blanchetta and Royal Glen drives in White Oak. Nine homeowners accepted the offer and the township demolished the homes, leaving green space where concrete and brick used to be.
Township officials are applying for federal funding to buy and demolish five more homes.
"It's more cost-effective to buy the home and demolish it than for people to have their lives in danger and homes damaged on an annual basis," Birkenhauer said.
During the past three years, the township has used more than $2 million in federal, state and local funds to build a tornado shelter at Colerain Park and to windproof the township's senior center, in addition to demolishing the houses.
"It's voluntary to enact these plans," Merick said, "but communities hit by natural disasters know how important it is to get these state and federal funds."
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