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Infrastructure Bill's Passage Could Bring Flood Relief for MT City

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Thursday, November 11, 2021   

THREE FORKS, Mont. -- The passage of the infrastructure bill in Congress could provide relief for a Montana community threatened by floods.

Three Forks sits at the Missouri River headwaters and the confluence of three rivers: the Gallatin, Jefferson and Madison. Recently updated assessments from the Federal Emergency Management Agency find the community is at significant risk from flooding.

Patricia Hernandez, executive director of the Montana-based nonprofit Headwaters Economics, said the new floodplain map would make it hard to build in most of the community.

"There's major consequences for the community, for regional job growth and housing affordability because Three Forks has some of the last affordable housing in the booming county where Bozeman is located," Hernandez explained.

Three Forks has developed a plan for mitigating flood risk, but failed to receive federal funding when it applied earlier this year. However, under the trillion-dollar infrastructure bill passed in Congress last week, FEMA's program for reducing flood damage has seen its budget more than triple to $700 million annually.

Hernandez noted the city, in collaboration with the state and engineers, has come up with an innovative project. It would make use of a dry river channel along the Jefferson to redirect water back into the river. Hernandez contended it would protect about a quarter of the community's homes and businesses in a vulnerable area.

"It's an area that has more mobile homes and more renters," Hernandez pointed out. "It's an area that has lower income levels and so it's a part of the community that would really struggle in the face of a flood."

Hernandez added it is important to invest in communities historically left behind, such as those in rural areas.

"Our investment in funding climate resilience can spur economic opportunity and growth in so many communities that are facing increasing risk from climate change," Hernandez emphasized.

Support for this reporting was provided by The Carnegie Corporation of New York.


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