Havre Daily News - News you can use

 
 

By Tim Leeds 

FEMA hopes to finish work soon

Close to goal on setting disaster repair projects, close to initial estimate on damages

 

August 29, 2013

Lindsay Brown

Butch Welter, left, and Clyde Doubek work to install a new foot bridge at the Railroad Pagers campground in Beaver Creek Park. The bridge was designed to better survive flooding after the previous bridge was washed out in 2011.

The federal team helping assess damage and set projects to repair damage from this year’s flooding in north-central Montana is close to wrapping up. Final amounts for repairs are extremely close to the original estimate.

Charley Baird, who is heading up the work for the Federal Emergency Management Agency out of its office set up in the National Guard Armory in Havre, said he expects that, by the end of the week, the total damage assessed from the 2013 flooding will be very close to the $3.15 million in the initial estimate.

Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation and Hill County had the largest amounts in the initial estimate for the 12 counties and three Indian reservations declared disasters, with Rocky Boy at $773,000, Hill County at $545,677. Blaine County was third at $358,092 and Fort Belknap Indian Reservation was fourth, at $246,705.

Baird said he is hopeful that, by the end of the week, the team also will be wrapping up its work here, which is the goal.

Federal Emergency Management Agency External Affairs Officer Ricardo X. “Zuni” Zuñiga said getting in, getting the work done quickly and getting back out always is a primary goal. The sooner the FEMA team is done, the sooner the local governments can start getting the money to help recover from the disaster, he said.

Both Baird and Zuñiga said the total dollar amount for projects approved for this disaster is extremely close to the initial assessment used to decide whether to declare a federal disaster, about as close as they ever have seen.

“I think, certainly, by the end of the week we’ll be at our initial preliminary damage assessment amount,” Baird said. “That’s pretty unusual, really.”

The initial assessment is done relatively quickly — though thoroughly — so the decision to move forward with a declaration can be made. Once closer inspections are made, the total usually changes.

Baird added that the amount probably will go up, including with costs of engineering studies being conducted to find ways to reduce damage in future disasters.

Zuñiga said the accurate initial estimate is a testament to the close work done with the local governments. He said FEMA relies on the local governments to show what the damage is while the teams are making initial assessments.

“Without local participation, our estimates will be off,” Zuñiga said.

He stressed that FEMA works in partnership with the state and local governments to assess and set projects for disaster damage.

Baird said that, including him, 25 people were working on assessing the damage in the north-central Montana disasters. About 20 additional support staff also are working with the team.

Montana Disaster and Emergency Services Coordinator Ed Tinsley said the National Guard Armory has provided an excellent location, giving the necessary security for the team, while helping save some money with a rent-free location — a benefit to the taxpayers.

Baird said his team has received tremendous support from the military.

“It’s one of those things you don’t hear about,” Tinsley said. “It makes their job easier, it makes our job easier, and it saves everybody a little money.”

 

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