July 17, 2013 |

Kickoff disaster assistance meeting set for Thursday

Federal officials Thursday will once again meet with local leaders to start the process of requesting funding for specific projects to repair damage from this spring’s flooding.

This aerial photo of flooding around Big Sandy was taken by Peggy Lamb of the Northern Agricultural Research Center in June. Willie Hurd was the pilot.

The meeting with Federal Emergency Management Agency officials is scheduled for 1 p.m. Thursday at the Northern Agricultural Research Center at Fort Assinniboine south of Havre, in a multi-government and agency affair including Blaine, Chouteau and Hill counties and the Fort Peck and Rocky Boy’s Indian reservations as well as NARC and Triangle Communications-Hill County Electric.

The preliminary estimate of damage in the three counties and two reservations is close to $2 million, with Blaine and Hill counties and Rocky Boy and Fort Belknap sustaining the top four amounts of damage of the 15 governments listed.

President Barack Obama signed a disaster declaration June 10 for 12 counties and three Indian reservations for the flooding that occurred May 19 to June 3.

The declaration was for public assistance, providing money in a cost-share basis to governments and eligible nonprofit organizations to repair damage to property and infrastructure caused by the flooding.

The declaration is only for public assistance, with a separate declaration needed to provide individual assistance to private property owners.

Hill County Disaster and Emergency Services Coordinator Joe Parenteau said this morning he, and the representatives of the other local governments in the area, still are collecting damage assessments from private property owners. It appears at this point that individual assistance won’t be coming, he said.

“It doesn’t appear that we have the damages that would come up to the level to be eligible,” Parenteau said, although he will continue to accept the assessment forms.

This is the third time in four years FEMA officials are holding kickoff meetings in the area.

Massive flood damage in 2010 led to a presidential disaster declaration for Rocky Boy and Chouteau and Hill counties.

A widespread repeat in 2011 of the flooding led to a disaster declaration again including Chouteau and Hill counties and Rocky Boy, with the declaration that year also including Blaine County and Fort Belknap and 27 other counties and the Crow and Northern Cheyenne Indian reservations.

The 2010 declaration was for only public assistance, but another declaration issued in 2011 also included individual assistance for private property owners.

In an individual assistance declaration, federal funds could be available to eligible property owners for repairs, and organizations also could provide volunteer labor to help people clean up and repair damage.

The meeting Thursday will start the process of obtaining public assistance.

The FEMA officials will work with each applicant to assess individual needs, discuss disaster related damage, and set forth a plan of action for repair of facilities. The FEMA state liaison will provide details on documentation and reporting requirements.

In the next step, FEMA officials will go to each jurisdiction to assist in identifying, documenting and requesting approval of specific projects.

The damage again was widespread, with buildings, roads, bridges, culverts and water systems damaged by the flooding.

The preliminary estimate for Rocky Boy, which is in both Chouteau and Hill counties, at $773,000. The estimate for Hill County listed in the governor’s request is the second-highest total, with $545,677. Blaine County’s is third at $358,092 and Fort Belknap is fourth, at $246,705.

Chouteau County’s estimate is the second-lowest in damages of the 15 entities approved, with the preliminary damage estimate at $22,185.

The Northern Agricultural Research Center also sustained damage, to roads, buildings and equipment.

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