County extends COVID disaster declaration

County extends COVID disaster declaration

Even as the number of active cases have reached just 27 for the county, Matagorda County Commissioners approved the extension of the county’s declaration of disaster for COVID-19 beginning Sept. 28 and ending Oct. 26.

“This is just a reupping of the disaster declaration,” said Matagorda County Judge Nate McDonald. “We are still in the throws of COVID-19 but we are making measurable progress and need to continue to move forward.\.”

Commissioners also approved an extension of a declaration of disaster for Hurricane Laura from Sept. 28 through Oct. 26 as well as approved an extension for the county for Tropical Storm Beta beginning Sept. 28 and ending Oct. 26.

“We are right in the middle of the cleanup process at this time,” said Matagorda County Commissioner Kent Pollard. “All of these storms just seem to find my precinct.”

A Disaster Declaration is a formal statement by a jurisdiction that a disaster or emergency exceeds the response and/or recovery capabilities. Although a declaration is commonly addressed after a disaster, a declaration may be made if a disaster is found to be imminent.

The FEMA declaration makes federal funding available to the states to use to fight the spread of the virus. State and local governments have struggled to obtain enough medical supplies amid the pandemic, with some governors saying there have been bidding wars between states and with the federal government.

The designation by the Federal Emergency Management Agency allows states and territories to access federal funds to help fight the coronavirus spread. State officials and doctors have been competing for essential supplies like ventilators and personal protective equipment as hospitals grapple with shortages.

FEMA announced that federal emergency aid has been made available for the state of Texas to supplement the state, tribes and local recovery efforts in the areas affected by the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic beginning on January 20 and continuing.

The action makes federal funding available for crisis counseling for affected individuals in all areas of the state of Texas.

Federal funding is also available to state, tribal and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency protective measures (Category B), including direct federal assistance under Public Assistance, for all areas affected by COVID-19 at a federal cost share of 75 percent.

George A. Robinson has been named as the Federal Coordinating Officer for federal recovery operations in the affected area. Additional designations may be made at a later date if requested by the state and warranted by the results of further assessments.

County commissioners also approved a letter of intent to the General Land Office relating to the county’s partnership with the Matagorda Bay Foundation in the acquisition of Dog Island.

Matagorda County Attorney Denise Fortenberry said this partnership will allow the county and Matagorda Bay Foundation to acquire this piece of property for further research and conservation practices. The letter of intent allows the GLO to know of the county’s intention to partner with MB Foundation to acquire it.

This property is 1,000 acres in size,” said Bill Balboa. “We will have the full benefit of all river flow and put it in the conservation easement. We plan on putting in trails for bird watching and plan to use it to educate people about importance of Matagorda Bay.”

Dog Island Reef is a bar located just 14.6 miles from Palacios, in Matagorda County.

Dog Island is a 1,000+ acre coastal “island” located a few miles west of Matagorda, Texas, and situated between the Colorado River delta, the TPWD Mad Island Marsh WMA, and the open expanse of West Matagorda Bay.

The island supports a unique combination of habitats that include wooded uplands, freshwater swales and mudflats, and an extensive tidal marsh fringed with oyster reef at the bayward fringe.  These habitats provide loafing, foraging and nesting habitat for hundreds of species of native and migratory birds, and supports populations of deer, bobcats, coyotes, alligators, redfish, southern flounder, spotted seatrout, shrimp and crabs. 

Flows from the nearby Colorado river help to moderate salinities, and provide sediments and nutrients essential to the health and productivity of the wetlands and other habitats at Dog Island. Numerous ponds and channels weave together throughout the wetlands and optimize access to hundreds of acres of critical estuarine nursery habitats that sustain juvenile fish and shellfish. 

Oyster reefs are a vital part of the Dog Island ecology and are found in abundance along the banks of tidal sloughs and marsh edges. These reefs provide critical ecosystem services that improve water quality, stabilize shorelines and reduce erosion along marsh edges, and serve as important habitat for coastal birds, fish, and invertebrate species.

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