Every five years North Dakota counties have to review their multi-hazard mitigation plans, as required by FEMA.
These documents outline how local officials should respond to anything from natural disasters like flooding, droughts and fires, to cyber and terrorist attacks, and everything in between.
Morton County’s plan was up for review this year, and a 611-page draft was submitted to the state this month.
Daniel Schwartz, the planner hired for this project, says these hazard plans were first developed as recently as the early 2000s, and they get more complex each time around.
“When I first started in hazard mitigation planning in 2013, the main focus was natural hazards. As our world has gotten more technologically focused, cybersecurity, criminal, terrorist, nation-state attacks, civil disturbance; a lot of man-made or adversarial threats have come into the picture,” shared the President of Nexus Planning & Consulting.
“It just depends on the jurisdiction: what their risks are, what their assets are, their vulnerabilities.”
In Morton County, the plan outlines several services and infrastructures that need improvement.
One of the biggest areas in need of replacing is the water mains, particularly in Mandan. In that city alone, there have been 108 water main breaks in the last 18 years, an average of 5.5 breaks a year.
Schwartz says this is an issue across the state, but Mandan’s landscape presents a more immediate problem.
“Mandan sits in a river valley. It’s susceptible to dam failure, flooding from the Missouri and the Heart River. Our forefathers in North Dakota, they designed our water systems, unfortunately, to be only four feet underground typically which makes it susceptible to the freezing and thawing during severe winter weather. Typically, in North Dakota, you want to have them eight feet underground in order to not be impacted by that process,” he added.
This rewrite has been about two years in the making so far. Schwartz expects it will be approved by the state, by the end of the year.
Then, it must be adopted by each city and the county itself, before being sent to FEMA and the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services for final approval.