Local community leaders and public officials learned Friday that their request for a federal disaster declaration had been approved.
The April 9-10 ice and snowstorm caused widespread damage to trees and power lines in the five southwestern Minnesota counties.
The counties affected were Rock, Nobles, Murray, Cottonwood and Jackson, with the most severe damage in Rock and Nobles counties.
The federal disaster declaration will mean these counties are now eligible for assistance to cover the costs associated with emergency work and the repair or replacement of disaster-damaged facilities.
It should be noted that this disaster assistance it not for private individuals and businesses; it’s only for local governments and not-for-profit organizations.
According to Rock County Emergency Management Director Kyle Oldre, a FEMA team will be in the area soon to review damages and provide financial relief — some immediate, and some to be paid later.
The five-county damages are estimated at more than $26 million — much of that in the form of damaged public utilities, such as downed power lines and poles.
The preliminary figures show the following projected costs and damages:
•Debris removal — $3.2 million.
•Emergency protective measures $3.7 million.
•Buildings and equipment $41,500.
•Utilities — $19 million.
•Parks, recreational facilities and other facilities — $60,550.
Rock County’s estimated damages are roughly $1.5 million.
U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken and Representative Tim Walz, along with Governor Dayton, had visited Rock County in April and urged the Administration to issue a disaster declaration.
“I saw firsthand the damage caused by this storm just days after the event,” Klobuchar said.
“This support will go a long way to helping the region recover, and I will continue to work with state and local officials to help ensure all the affected communities have the resources and support they need to rebuild.”
Franken agreed. “During my visit to the communities affected by the storm, it was clear that they were going to need significant help to repair and replace infrastructure damaged by the storm. I’m relieved it’s on the way,” he said.
“I’m thankful the administration listened to our concerns and granted the disaster declaration for public assistance. My office will continue to work with local officials throughout the recovery process.”
Walz said this is how a democracy is supposed to work. “… to act swiftly and help communities in times of need,” he said.
“This support will help folks in southwest Minnesota get back on their feet. I will continue working with local and state officials and federal agencies to ensure folks on the ground are getting the help they need.”
The declaration designates Cottonwood, Jackson, Murray, Nobles and Rock counties as federal disaster areas and authorizes the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to release funds for emergency work and the repair or replacement of disaster-damaged facilities.
The Public Assistance designation makes public entities eligible for assistance to repair roads, bridges, water facilities and parks that were damaged by the disaster.
Preliminary damage assessments revealed more than $26 million in costs and damages. Additional disaster designations may be made at a later date.
Last week Klobuchar, Franken and Walz wrote a letter to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Craig Fugate.
They called on FEMA to coordinate with state and local officials to expedite recovery efforts in southwest Minnesota and requesting that FEMA staff work with local communities on the ground as they work to recover.
The declaration includes two categories of aid:
Public Assistance: Assistance to state and local government and certain private nonprofit organizations for emergency work and the repair or replacement of disaster-damaged facilities. This applies within counties in the disaster area.
Hazard Mitigation Grant Program: Assistance to state and local government and certain private nonprofit organizations for actions taken to prevent or reduce long-term risk to life and property from natural hazards. All counties in Minnesota are eligible to apply for assistance under this program.
FEMA will reimburse 75 percent of approved costs. Eligible work includes debris removal, emergency services related to the disaster and repair or replacement of damaged public facilities, such as roads, power poles, buildings, utilities and recreation areas. HSEM disaster recovery staff will work with all eligible applicants to process requests for assistance.