While Federal Emergency Management Agency denials and reversals have roiled some communities following natural disasters, officials in Tennessee’s capital have been unusually successful at winning their appeals.
An analysis by The Associated Press found that over the past decade, FEMA has denied two-thirds of all appeals sought by local governments and nonprofit groups to protect or rebuild communities hit by hurricanes, floods, fires, earthquakes, tornadoes or other major disasters.
But the experience in Nashville has been notably different in the aftermath of the city’s 2010 flood. Nashville won or has been partially granted 21 of the city’s 22 FEMA appeals.
Many of those appeals relate to damage to the Dry Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant and other infrastructure damaged by the historic flooding of the Cumberland River and its tributaries.
The Dry Creek site was flooded for seven days in 2010, causing widespread damage to the site, including to equalization basins, tunnels, treatment systems, sludge storage tanks and pump stations, said Matthew Modesitt, a spokesman for Metro Water Services in Nashville.
When the floodwaters receded, the wastewater plant began to regain power and the city got to work on $17.5 million worth of repairs even before FEMA’s funding decisions were made.
The city recouped $2.1 million in insurance money, and anticipated a FEMA reimbursement of about $11 million.
Modesitt said Metro Water is still working within the FEMA appeals process.
“The Department has benefited from several positive outcomes due to a willingness by FEMA to assess the rules by which these types of disasters are subjected and apply them to our individualized circumstances,” he said. “While the process has been lengthy, we feel it has been thorough.”
One of the biggest barriers to clearing the cases has been staff turnover at FEMA, he said.
“Our biggest suggestion would be improving continuity of project managers/teams so that projects are not slowed by lack of knowledge or history of disasters,” Modesitt said.
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