County flood damage grows to $30 million as Governor seeks disaster declarationFour-day Disaster Recovery Center to open in Barnum Friday
By: Jana Peterson, Pine Journal
With flood damage estimates for the Northland now at approximately $109 million for public infrastructure alone, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton sent a request to President Obama on Friday for a disaster declaration for counties and reservations affected by last week’s downpour.
“I have no doubt it will be approved by the President and signed,” Dayton said. “It’s a question of when. It’s typically two weeks, but we’ll see if we can shorten that.”
Dayton made the announcement after a visit to Duluth, where he met with numerous area officials – including Cloquet Mayor Bruce Ahlgren – to get an update on the damage and recovery. The declaration will pave the way for local governments and possibly others to apply for federal aid to help cover cleanup and restoration costs.
The Carlton County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution to formally petition the governor and the President to declare the county a major disaster area on Thursday afternoon.
“Our preliminary estimate of public infrastructure damages is just a little over $30 million,” Carlton County Economic Development Director Pat Oman told the board Thursday. “That includes public infrastructure for county, townships, school districts, cities, non-profit agencies and certain districts like fire and hospital that are government affiliated.”
Duluth Mayor Don Ness said damage estimates to public infrastructure in Duluth are about $51 million.
“We all recognize the urgency of the situation,” Dayton said. “Everybody’s taken the time, made the effort to see firsthand what the needs are. And like all the citizens here, [they’ve] been overwhelmed by the scope of the disaster.”
Oman said Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) representatives said in a Thursday morning meeting that the Carlton County damages “easily meet” the requirements for FEMA aid.
The Carlton County Board also heard from Carlton County Emergency Management Director/Chief Deputy Brian Belich, who explained that the governor’s request would go from Minnesota to FEMA Region 5 in Chicago, which would then forward the request to FEMA offices and the President in Washington, D.C.
“They estimate it’s a two- to three-week process,” Belich said. “It’s in their ballpark now. It’s a little bit of a waiting game.”
County Commissioner Tom Proulx also attended the morning meeting with FEMA officials. He said the emergency management personnel were impressed with how Carlton County had handled the flash flooding and its aftermath.
“I believe they said we were their new ‘poster child,’” he told his fellow commissioners.
Oman said the first priority of the FEMA group that visited Thursday is public infrastructure.
“Every single government unit [in Carlton County] that I mentioned had damage except two townships,” he said. “There’s a lot of damage.”
Dayton also said there will be a special session to allocate money for flood relief, though he didn’t say when.
“We’ll have a special session as soon as we get the information together to assess correctly what needs to be done and where the money needs to be directed,” he said.
If the area qualifies for individual disaster assistance, homeowners could see up to $31,000 in federal aid.
A second application for that assistance would have to come through Dayton. He said Friday that damage estimates still need to be tallied before that request can be made.
“It’s going to take a little more time to get that information from businesses and homeowners around the area,” he said. “As soon as we think we have most of the scope of the problem, we’ll submit that to FEMA.”
In the meantime, however, there are other funding sources available, Oman said, explaining that combined county, state, federal Disaster Recovery Center will be open for four days starting Friday, July 6, in Barnum, Duluth and Willow River. Resources from a large number of agencies will be available at the sessions for people needing resources after the recent flooding. The Barnum Center will be located at Barnum High School, 3675 County Road 140, Barnum, MN 55707. Hours of operation are 1-7 p.m. on Friday, July 6; and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday through Monday, July 7-9.
Numerous agencies will have representatives at the Disaster Recovery Center. Upon arrival, visitors will meet individually with a representative from the state to discuss their personal flood-related situation. The resident will be connected with the services they need to assist in their situation.
Brandon Stahl of Forum Communications contributed to this story.