With local officials still working on finishing paperwork and meeting requirements for funding repairs from last year’s flooding, they now are starting preliminary work for another likely federal disaster declaration.
Havre and Hill County officials met with a Federal Emergency Management Agency official in Havre Tuesday morning, as did officials on Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation, for initial damage estimates for this year’s flooding so far.
Loran Gardner of FEMA said the officials should try to get as complete and accurate estimate as possible for the predisastof an er evaluation, but the numbers and projects will likely changes substantially as the official work starts after a declaration.
Gov. Brian Schweitzer requested last week that President Barack Obama declare a federal disaster in the state due to widespread flooding.
Obama declared Hill County and Rocky Boy disasters last year following flooding in May and June.
Hill County Disaster and Emergency Services Coordinator Joe Parenteau said Wednesday that the county officials are just wrapping up work from last year’s disaster. That will allow the rest of the federal disaster aid money to come to the county, for repair and mitigation projects from 2010.
Then they will turn around and start working on this year’s projects and paperwork, Parenteau said.
“We’ll get to where we were before last year, then figure out where to go this year,” he said.
The county and city officials, and representatives of Hill County Electric Cooperative and the Triangle Communications cooperative, listed several initial projects in the county, for emergency repair work.
Those included washed out of a dump site west of Box Elder, numerous problems with telephone lines and electrical systems, and four locations where county roads or bridges had washed out.
The city also reported increased expenses and a potential problem at the Water Treatment Plant, with increased expenses and wear on the plant due to high levels of sediment in the water of the Milk River and the development of a sinkhole near the weir that diverts water to the treatment plant.
Extensive damage also occurred on Beaver Creek Park, with Superintendent Chad Edgar reporting the damage was more severe than in the flooding in 2010.
Gardner said that after a disaster is declared, the state will hold a briefing meeting where agencies can apply to be subgrantees of the state for disaster funds.
Normally, the state is the main grantee in a federal disaster, with other governments and eligible groups applying as subgranteees. In last year’s disaster, the Chippewa Cree at Rocky Boy became the first tribe in FEMA’s eight state region including Montana to become a primary grantee in administering its disaster.
Once the procedure gets under way, a FEMA team will come to each county or reservation to begin the process of evaluating eligible projects, determining the amount of federal aid for which the project is eligible, and getting the local officials writing up the paperwork for those projects.
Gardner added that the declaration would be open ended ― counties not originally included in the request for the declaration could be added, and damage caused after the declaration is made also could be eligible.
Schweitzer did not include Hill County and Rocky Boy in his original request, as both had essentially avoided severe flooding until last weekend.
FEMA teams did predisaster declarations in surrounding areas, including Blaine and Chouteau counties and the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation, earlier last week and over the weekend. Gardner said teams were across most of the state, with evaluations Tuesday wrapping up the initial work.
Gardner said the final report should be concluded Wednesday, with the agency making its recommendation to Obama and his acting on the recommendation expected by early next week.