BILLINGS — Montana's request for a presidential disaster declaration was approved by federal officials Friday following flooding that has caused at least $8.6 million in damage.
The declaration makes the state eligible for federal assistance to repair and replace damaged roads, bridges and other infrastructure washed out by weeks of high water.
It also means 31 counties and four tribes can be reimbursed for flood-fighting expenses ranging from overtime, to sandbagging and setting up temporary shelters.
A melting snowpack combined with record rains in May and June swelled rivers and swamped hundreds of houses in towns across the eastern half of the state. Flooding also has hit communities in central and western Montana.
The damage estimate could climb higher as flooding continues in some areas and damage reports keep coming in, said Sarah Elliot a spokeswoman for Gov. Brian Schweitzer.
Elliot said the state and local share of damage costs is $2.1 million or 25 percent of the total.
Individual assistance for homeowners has not yet been requested. But assessment teams were scheduled to return to flooded areas beginning Tuesday to start tallying homeowner damages, Disaster and Emergency Services Division spokeswoman Monique Lay said.
She added that additional counties and reservations could also be eligible for flood cost reimbursements if they qualify.
"This is where the money starts flowing," Lay said. "They'll have to do the project, make the payments then we can get the money from FEMA."