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Minnesota governor seeks presidential disaster declaration for flood recovery

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ST. PAUL — Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton requested Wednesday that counties damaged by floods last month be declared a presidential disaster area.

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Dayton also added 16 counties to the state disaster list, meaning 51 of Minnesota’s 87 counties reported damage from flooding that began June 11.

If President Barack Obama honors Dayton’s request, state and local government will get federal money to pay 75 percent of flood-related costs. The state will pay the rest.

Dayton said that eight mostly rural counties — Chippewa, Freeborn, Jackson, Murray, Nobles, Pipestone, Renville and Rock — have reported $10.8 million in damage to public facilities. Minnesota needed to record at least $7.3 million to qualify for federal aid.

However, the governor said, 31 counties and one American Indian tribe so far have reported more than $55 million in costs, so total damage is expected to rise substantially as more reports come in.

As federal, state and local officials survey damage, Dayton said, damage assessments are coming in higher than initial reports.

State Emergency Management Director Kris Eide said she expects counties in the Twin Cities area to report far higher damage than rural areas because the population is higher and there are more public facilities.

Federal money is available only for government infrastructure damage and costs of fighting floods. Any help for private homes and business owners would come from other programs, but it is not clear whether  that will be available.

Even before Obama decides whether he will approve the Dayton disaster request, the U.S. Department of Transportation told state officials Wednesday that Minnesota will receive up to $5 million in “quick release” emergency relief money to help fix the state’s flood-damaged roads.

The federal money will reimburse the state for emergency repair work and is in addition to $750,000 the federal government already sent Minnesota.

The state will share the money with local road authorities.

Most of the damage reported by local officials is to roads and bridges. Also, local governments spent money to protect their communities from rising water.

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Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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