By Tim Leeds 

FEMA administrator: Decision on disaster declaration likely in coming days 


The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency told one of Montana's U. S. senators that a decision on declaring the state a disaster area should come quickly.

Sen. Jon Tester asked FEMA administrator Craig Fugate how long it would take to get a declaration from FEMA — a week, two weeks?

"It is moving through now, sir, " Fugate said. "I would almost be ready to say days, not weeks. "

FEMA officials have been in Montana in the last weeks evaluating damage from flooding. The results will be used to advise President Barack Obama on Gov. Brian Schweitzer's request for a presidential disaster declaration.

The agency wrapped up its statewide tour evaluating damage this week including stops at Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation and in Havre. It also evaluated other damage in the region, including in Chouteau and Blaine counties and on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation.

The members of Montana's congressional delegation have been actively pushing federal agencies to act on the flooding in Montana, including requests to FEMA, the U. S. Department of Transportation and the Department of Agriculture.

Sen. Max Baucus announced Wednesday that FEMA had acted on his request to include damage on the Huntley Irrigation Project near Billings.

After FEMA originally denied the request from the irrigation project to be included in the disaster evaluation, Baucus said, he requested the decision be reversed.

He said Wednesday the agency had reversed it, and the irrigation project now might be able to receive federal assistance if a disaster is declared.

Montana's sole member of the U. S. House of Representatives, Denny Rehberg, announced Thursday he had sent a letter to Fugate asking FEMA to look closely at the damage in Huntley Project, along with the other damage in the state, and that federal assistance be available to Huntley Project if a disaster is declared.


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