County Progress asked San Patricio County Commissioner Fred Nardini and flood plain manager Mattie Atkinson key questions regarding the San Patricio County road damage recovery program.
1. Your road damage recovery program is conducted in coordination with your Flood Damage Prevention Order. However, what if a county does not deal with flood damages? Can this county still adopt a Flood Damage Prevention Order? Every county has the ability to adopt a Flood Plain Program and a Flood Damage Prevention Order. The program is not based on flood damages. And you don’t have to have a river or a lake. Every county has flood zones, and every time it rains, the water has to go somewhere. In the case of the road bond program, the key to the Flood Damage Prevention Order is that it allows the floodplain administrator/manager to review, approve, or deny all applications for development permits.
Please keep in mind that the only reason the road bond order is associated with the Flood Plain Office in San Patricio County is because our flood plain manager, Mattie, coordinates the program via her development permit authority. Mattie will not approve a development permit if the contractor has not secured the proper road bond. Other counties may find alternate ways to flag whether or not a contractor has secured a road bond.
2. Who are the essential players in the program? The chief players include the county judge, the county commissioners, and the county treasurer. They must be active in facilitating this program. The county also needs an emergency management coordinator in place or someone to administer the program. In San Patricio County, our emergency management coordinator, who is the flood plain administrator, delegated administration of the program to our flood plain manager.
3. What are the key steps to developing this program?
Here is how San Patricio County developed the program, using the Flood Plain Office as the coordinating partner:
a) County establishes a road bond order in consideration of the following: County roads may be damaged or altered by development activities, such as oil and gas drilling or wind turbine farm development, or other activities associated with heavy equipment or heavy loads. In San Patricio County, the program requires a cash or surety bond be provided in the amount of $25,000, or a blanket bond of $50,000. The blanket bond is to cover an entire precinct in those cases where work is being done in various areas of a precinct. The purpose of the bond is to “cover any and all damage to the roads or other rights of way, including damage to sidewalks, curbs, medians, street signs, and street lights. Ordinary wear and tear are excluded from this policy.” If no road damage is reported, the bond will be refunded to the operator.
b) Commissioners Court issues Flood Damage Prevention Order, which allows the floodplain administrator to “review, approve, or deny all applications for development permits required by adoption of this order.”
c) County coordinates with local service providers. When a contractor applies for power, the service provider directs them to the county’s flood plain office for a required development permit.
d) When a business entity, individual or group applies for a permit through the Flood Plain Program, the flood plain manager determines whether or not the activity requires a road bond. In San Patricio County, anything bigger than 10 feet by 10 feet usually requires a permit. If the business entity, individual or group did not previously acquire the needed bond, the flood plain manager denies the permit application until the bond is secured.
e) Once a permit is given, the commissioner inspects the roads. Photo records are advised. When the contractor asks for release of the bond, the commissioner re-inspects the roads to determine any damages.
f) Once the program is in place, the county advertises this program (road bond requirement) using local media and by contacting businesses and contractors throughout the county via letters and phone calls.
What if a driller or other type of operator begins activity without a permit or bond? If a company has not obtained a permit, then the commissioner of that precinct may contact this company to ensure this company understands procedures and all orders to complete operations within the county. Each commissioner should try and create working relationships with these companies.
What is the biggest challenge to the program? Getting this information out to all companies operating with heavy machinery within our county is the main challenge.
What are the keys to a successful program? The county needs to communicate this program to the public and contact each company operating within the county to make sure they understand the new requirements. In addition, the program works best when the county does not pick and choose who or what to permit, but permits everyone countywide.
“Some counties only permit special flood hazard areas,” Atkinson said. “This program is more effective if you permit the entire area and all activity, even if the business is local.”
“The commissioners court members need to be one,” Nardini stressed. “All parties have to agree to do this together and stick by it. That’s the only way it’s going to work, to have the total cooperation of everyone involved.”