Dayton returns to Duluth today to explain federal aid rundownGov. Mark Dayton will visit Duluth again today to talk about the federal disaster designation process.
By: Mike Creger, Duluth News Tribune
Gov. Mark Dayton will visit Duluth again today to talk about the federal disaster designation process.
The visit comes after several days of Federal Emergency Management Agency teams visiting areas of the state hit by last week’s flooding. City of Duluth spokeswoman Amy Norris said Dayton will talk about the FEMA aid process and how local officials can continue to streamline it.
Dayton will likely request the federal declaration since the damage done in the region certainly qualifies and is likely more than the state can handle on its own.
The FEMA visit is only part of an extended federal process that began as soon as local officials made assessments last Wednesday of unprecedented damage from rushing and, a week later, creeping waters.
FEMA, along with officials from Homeland Security and Emergency Management, toured 13 counties with state and local officials this week, what the Minnesota Department of Public Safety called a “first step” in the federal disaster declaration process. Information from the visits will be sent to Dayton.
Should the request be made by Dayton, it will take a few weeks for aid to come flowing. A request would be forwarded from FEMA and Homeland Security to Washington, where President Obama would determine what level of funding would be appropriate.
Dayton will meet privately with local officials and then be part of a noon press conference at the Duluth Public Safety office on Arlington Road.
Here is the latest from across the flood region:
Norris said Fond du Lac, one of the hardest hit areas of the city, continues to fare better. “Every day it’s a little bit drier,” she said.
There remain homes that are surrounded by water as the St. Louis River slowly recedes to a normal level. Debris is being removed and city workers are plugging away on street repairs, Norris said.
City of Duluth assessors and inspectors, like their colleagues in county government, are going out to assess damage at homes and businesses. The inspections could lead to breaks on taxes and will be used for FEMA evaluations. Inspectors will also deem if homes are safe for inhabitation.
Those who have damage and haven’t seen an assessor should call the city at (218) 730-5300 to get an inspection. White cards are left at homes they have visited with no one home. Damage reports can also be filed online at the city’s Web site.
St. Louis County
Despite the army of local, state and federal officials assessing damage in the area the past week, one area outside of Island Lake northwest of Duluth has felt a bit isolated.
“Not a soul,” Daryl Carlson said Thursday afternoon when asked if any emergency or assessment teams had been in the Bowman Lake area along the Cloquet River. “No officials of any sort have stopped by. We saw a helicopter fly over one of the days.”
Like many of those living next to rivers, the water that came last week didn’t happen in a flash or disappear the same way.
It rose more slowly and has lingered for a frustratingly long time.
Carlson said he watched Bowman Lake rising last Wednesday and ordered a truckload of sand to begin damming the areas around his home. He’d already suffered six feet of water in his two-level basement.
“The sandbags are holding up,” he said. “We were scrambling.”
Neighbors with cabins haven’t fared as well, he said. “Some of those are gone.”
Carlson said the water was down four feet Thursday.
Access to the area was by boat only for a while, he said, as roads were covered in several feet of water. They still have a few inches on them.
The St. Louis County Environmental Services Department created a temporary dump site in Floodwood this week to accept flood debris. The 40-yard canisters are at Floodwood City Hall and an area has been set aside for appliances and household hazardous waste. The site will be open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day but Sunday through July 7.
“Everyone is really diving into the recovery effort,” Carlton County emergency management spokesman Drew Digby said Thursday.
With FEMA in the area doing assessments, the county has 20 teams of assessors out going door to door to check on residences and businesses. Digby said all but two townships in the county have reported some type of damage.
The county is ramping up its organized volunteer effort, Digby said, and trash haulers are combing the county.
Six roads in the county remain closed with an update expected today.
Digby said there a “dozens” of homes in the county that will likely have to be razed because they have too much water damage.
The Carlton County Board of Commissioners formally petitioned President Obama on Thursday to declare the county a major disaster area eligible for federal relief money.
“Our preliminary estimate of public infrastructure damages is just a little over $30 million,” County Economic Development Director Pat Oman told the board. “That includes public infrastructure for county, townships, school districts, cities, nonprofit agencies and certain districts like fire and hospital that are government affiliated.”
Oman reported FEMA representatives saying Carlton County damages “easily meet” the requirements for FEMA aid.
The federal aid request from the board will go to FEMA’s Region 5 office in Chicago, which would then forward the request to Washington, a two- to three-week process.
County Commissioner Tom Proulx said FEMA officials were impressed with how Carlton County had handled the flash flooding and its aftermath.
“I believe they said we were their new ‘poster child,’” Proulx said.
BJ Kohlstedt, Lake County’s director of emergency management, said that by comparison to other areas in the region, the county was “fortunate.”
“Most of our damages are to roads,” she said. There are a few homes and other structures that have been damaged. Some homes suffered septic failures or had driveways washed out.
“All our main artery roads are open to the public,” Kohlstedt said.
There are four closures on secondary roads, most just north of Two Harbors.
Areas past Gooseberry Falls State Park and inland from Lake Superior did not get as much rain and suffered little damage, Lake County Administrator Matt Huddleston said.
Lake County got its FEMA visit Wednesday. Huddleston said that the damaged parts of the county would be eligible for any federal aid provided for the region. The county now estimates its damages at $1.9 million, mostly for new culverts and roadways.
Huddleston said there likely won’t be money available for private property damage but state appropriations could cover them.
Rivers and streams have returned to normal flows, Kohlstedt said, and parks and businesses are running normally too. Some ATV and hiking trails have been washed away and those going out should check with trail clubs for dangerous areas.
Douglas County is reporting nearly $1.7 million in damage without including significant damage done at the University of Wisconsin Superior. It was the hardest hit county in Wisconsin. Most of the damage is to road infrastructure, $1.67 million. There were 13 reports of “major residential damage” in Superior, which, under FEMA guidelines, means there was 8 feet or more of water in a basement or flooding on a first floor.
Neighbor Bayfield County is reporting $700,000 in road damage. There was also damage in Ashland County.
None of those figures is likely to hit thresholds for federal aid money, which state officials said would require $7.7 million in total damages. Lisa Olson-McDonald from Northwest Wisconsin Emergency Management said storm damage could be covered under the Wisconsin Disaster Fund
The Minnesota Department of Transportation is helping with cleanup in Fond du Lac and shoring up roads throughout District 1, said Jeff Hall in maintenance operations at the office in Duluth.
Minnesota Highway 210 remains closed in the Jay Cooke State Park area as well as Highways 2, 18 and 73.
Hall said he expects the Highway 61 Expressway to open at the Knife River bridge Saturday. A crew there is adding cement in areas where the river and debris cut into the bridge support system.
MnDOT crews are continuing to scour the district for trouble spots. It will work to shore up sunken shoulders as time allows.
The Duluth office of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development reports that 73 businesses have reported damage so far and it expects more will follow before a July 6 deadline.
DEED is issuing flood impact surveys to help businesses find ways to recover.
It is also touting a fund that can immediately provide $5,000 to a business for repairs.
Several northern Minnesota institutions and businesses have established a Business Flood Recovery Fund to assist businesses in Aitkin, Carlton, St. Louis and eastern Lake Counties, as well as other areas in the Northland Foundation’s seven-county service region.
Grants up to $5,000 each will focus on the replacement or reconditioning of tangible assets including inventory, machinery, equipment, furniture, supplies and building and site repair.
For more information, call grant program manager Erik Torch at (218) 723-4040 or (800) 433-4045.
The Northland Chapter of the American Red Cross is no longer sheltering people but it will be visible through the weekend in flood-damaged areas. Drew Digby, the spokesman for emergency management in Carlton County, said most of those displaced are finding refuge at homes of family and friends.
Those who seek services such as finding volunteers to help or counseling to deal with losses can still call the Red Cross (218) 722-0071. It will also find shelter for people if they need it.
Red Cross vehicles will be out in neighborhoods with drinks, snacks and clean-up kits.
Jana Peterson from the Pine Journal in Cloquet and Danielle Kaeding from Wisconsin Public Radio contributed to this report.