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Recovery efforts in Dry Creek earn national award

Washington County’s approach to recovery efforts from the Dry Creek flood last summer has been recognized with an Innovation Award from the National Association of Development Organizations.
The award was presented to the First Tennessee Development District during NADO’s annual training conference held Aug. 24-27 in San Francisco.
Officers of the FTDD Board of Directors attended the four-day training conference and accepted the award.
Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge, who currently serves as FTDD treasurer, joined several other board members and FTDD staff in San Francisco.
“It speaks well for this county,” Eldridge said of receiving the award.
NADO’s annual awards program acknowledges innovative strategies to regional community and economic development throughout the nation.
The 2013 slate of recipients includes 93 projects in 25 states.
“It’s a very prestigious award in that it focuses on identifying development districts that have had a positive impact,” Eldridge said. “This award recognizes the unique approach to problem solving in the Dry Creek flood disaster without federal help.”
Appalachia Service Project tool the leadership role in the rebuild effort of homes destroyed Dry Creek.
A combination of community businesses that donated cash and in-kind services and an army of volunteers from as far away as Iowa have enabled 22 new homes to be completed since October 2012.
FTDD staff were involved in administering grant funds in the recovery effort and coordinating the qualifications for the recipients.
A number of local relief organizations, churches and homebuilders responded to the crisis and continued to be involved in the recovery efforts when the county learned no assistance would be received from FEMA.
In addition, county commissioners waived building permit fees for flood victims and allocated money for the creek cleanup.
Following a visit to the Erwin National Fish Hatchery in Unicoi County last week, U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander stopped by Eldridge’s office to ask how things were going in Washington County.
“I shared with him the general consensus from the conference is if we’re planning to rely on meaningful federal funding, we’re fooling ourselves,” Eldridge said.
Alexander concurred, and asked, “Is that a problem?”
Because Washington County does not receive a lot of federal funding, Eldridge answered no, though he was a little surprised by Alexander’s quick agreement with the conference outlook.
“It does tell me that we have to be focused on the fact that Washington County can’t just survive, but must exceed on its own,” Eldridge said. “It’s got to come from within, and it can. We proved that at Dry Creek.”