Cultural Resources Management Implications of the $19.1 Billion Disaster Relief Bill

06/11/2019 4:03 PM | Deleted user

ACRA members should be aware that last week a $19.1 billion disaster relief bill, held up by months due to President Trump’s opposition to Puerto Rican aid, was signed into law. Designed to provide assistance to areas in affected by storms, flooding, wildfires, and other disasters, H.R. 2157 (Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Act, 2019) includes funding that addresses the cultural resources impacts of several severe storms. Especially relevant to ACRA members, the bill includes $50 million to the National Park Service for the Historic Preservation Fund, to address the consequences of Hurricanes Florence and Michael and Typhoon Yutu. This funding:

  • Includes money for needed Section 106 compliance as part of disaster relief projects, but will also fund other activities relating to cultural heritage
  • Must be spent on the States and territories that have received a major disaster declaration as part of the three listed disasters (those eligible as part of H.R. 2157 include Florida, Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina, and Virginia for Hurricane/Tropical Storm Michael; Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina for Hurricane Florence; and the Northern Mariana Islands for Super Typhoon Yutu)
  • Will remain available until September 30, 2022 unless otherwise revised
  • Is not subject to a non-Federal matching grant requirement

The funding bill also provides $78 million to the National Park Service for construction repair and replacement of assets damaged in the disasters; $134 million for the U.S. Forest Service for Forest Inventory, capital improvements, and maintenance; and $1.64 billion for military construction to address impacts to Marine Corps installations in North Carolina, Air Force Base Tyndall in Florida, and National Guard facilities across the areas impacted by the disasters. A summary of the activities funded by the legislation is available here.

CRM firms may see contracting opportunities as a result of this legislation associated with military construction, emergency mitigation, and a system of competitive grants that SHPOs and THPOs may use to address cultural resources impacts of these events. During previous disaster relief bills like that for Hurricane Sandy, funding in affected states was provided to counties specifically listed in the disaster declaration. Funding disbursement varied by SHPO, but commonly addressed mitigation by documenting or updating site recording in affected areas, providing assessments of storm damage and sea level rise vulnerability, and developing disaster management plans for some historic resources.

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