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Grant program proposed to help residents and Fairfax County fight flooding

A truck got trapped by flooding on Arlington Blvd in Merrifield in 2019 (via FCFRD/Twitter)

The Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Environmental Services (DPWES) has proposed a new grant program to help curb flooding in the county.

The flood mitigation assistance program (FMAP) would reimburse residents and property owners for purchasing and installing approved products and services that reduce the risk of flood damage to their property.

The program calls for a cost-sharing agreement where the resident or property owners cover 50% of the cost, and the county covers the other half up to $5,000, DPWES Deputy Director Eleanor Ku Codding told the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors at an environmental committee meeting on Tuesday (Oct. 3).

The program was made to be flexible, according to Codding. It’s open to residential or commercial multi-family properties, common-interest communities, and places of worship. Approved flood mitigation practices include:

  • window wells
  • flood gates
  • modified basement areaways
  • sump pump backup batteries
  • utility protection
  • exterior grading or drains

However, if an owner wanted to use another flood mitigation service not listed, it would be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Codding said, since drainage is not a straightforward issue, sharing the cost is a good solution.

“By establishing a cost-share program, we are allowing residents to be empowered to take action to mitigate that risk of flooding,” she said. “In addition, we have seen that the best flood risk reduction programs — including FEMA — include these types of cost-share programs.”

Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust supported the program but called for the county to take more action.

“We should be thinking bigger in terms of stormwater management because it’s a huge problem,” Foust said. “And once we adopt this, then we’ll be done with it. We’ll check it off and move on to the next thing, and I just think the problem deserves more.”

Codding said other programs could be brought to the board in the future.

The county has discussed raising its building stormwater standards to accommodate more frequent and extreme flooding, and earlier this year, it piloted a program for sharing the cost of projects with private property owners, essentially testing the approach proposed for the new assistance program.

Funded through the county’s Stormwater Service District taxes, FMAP would start on July 1, 2024, and applications would be reviewed on a first come, first served basis. The Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District would administer the program.

DPWES will return to the board at a public hearing to get authorization to sign the memorandum of understanding with the conservation district. The agreement will establish rules for how the district should administer the program.

Screenshot via FCFRD/Twitter

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