Federal damage assessment gets under way in county this week
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
Preliminary Damage Assessments (PDAs) began this week around the region to assess flood damage in 13 Minnesota counties and the Fond du Lac Reservation.
A team composed of federal officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), state officials from the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management and local officials was slated to tour Carlton County on Thursday and the Fond du Lac Reservation on Friday.
The visits were tentatively scheduled to take place at 9 a.m. Thursday in the second-floor conference room of the Carlton County Law Enforcement Center, 317 Walnut Ave., Carlton, and at 9 a.m. Friday at the Fond du Lac Tribal Center, 1720 Big Lake Road, Cloquet.
According to Bruce Gordon, director of communications for the State Emergency Operations Center, the preliminary damage assessment is the first step in determining if Governor Mark Dayton will make a request for a Presidential Declaration of Disaster. Gordon said the preliminary damage assessments conducted this week will focus on Public Assistance, which is federal money to repair damage to public buildings, certain roadways, sidewalks and other infrastructure as well as reimburse for debris removal and emergency response costs.
If a Declaration of Disaster is issued, the state of Minnesota, assisted by FEMA, will conduct applicant briefings for eligible state, local and certain private non-profit organizations to inform them about the assistance available and how to apply for it. A request for Public Assistance must be filed with the state within 30 days after the area is designated eligible for assistance.
Following the applicants’ briefing, a kickoff meeting will be conducted where damages will be discussed, needs assessed and a plan of action put into place.
A combined federal/state/local team will then proceed with project formulation, which is the process of documenting the eligible facility, the eligible work and the eligible cost for fixing the damages to every public or private non-profit facility identified by state or local representatives. The team will prepare a project worksheet for each project.
Projects fall into the following categories: emergency work, including debris removal and emergency protective measures; and permanent work, including roads and bridges, water control facilities, buildings and equipment, utilities and parks, recreational facilities and other facilities.
FEMA will then review and approve the project worksheets and specify the federal share of the costs (which cannot be less than 75 percent) to the state. The state then disburses funds to local applicants.
Projects falling below a certain threshold are considered “small.” For fiscal year 2011, that threshold is $63,900. For small projects, payment of the federal share of the estimate is made upon approval of the project, and no further accounting to FEMA is required. For large projects, payment is made on the basis of actual costs determined after the project is completed, although interim payments may be made as necessary.
Gordon went on to say that home and business owners should report damage from the flooding to County Emergency Manager Brian Belich at the Carlton County Sheriff’s Office so officials can begin to determine the extent of damage to private property.
For more information, visit the Minnesota Recovers webpage at www.minnesotarecovers.org.