Officials welcome federal disaster aid for WisconsinNorthwestern Wisconsin public officials say President Obama’s federal disaster declaration for the region will mean relief to an area struggling to pick up the pieces from the June 20 flood.
By: Mike Simonson , Wisconsin Public Radio
Northwestern Wisconsin public officials say President Obama’s federal disaster declaration for the region will mean relief to an area struggling to pick up the pieces from the June 20 flood.
Obama declared Thursday that a major disaster
exists in Wisconsin and ordered federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts. Federal funding is available to state and local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations for emergency work and repair in Ashland, Bayfield and Douglas counties and the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.
Lakeside Township in Douglas County had the most damage of any of the rural communities outside of Superior. Township Chairman Tom Johnson got the good news late Thursday evening.
“Oh, I cannot tell you, the news from the president, it’s probably about the best news,” Johnson said. “I mean, it’s going to help us out, help everybody out.”
The Obama administration also has announced that low-interest loans are available through the Small Business Administration for small businesses and homeowners to make repairs or replace items damaged in the flooding. An office in the Superior Business Center, 1423 N. Eighth St., is open through Aug. 9 to assist businesses and homeowners with the application process.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency concluded its assessment of the damage last week and verified that the storms caused $8.6 million of damage to public infrastructure and facilities. That put the state over the threshold of $7.7 million needed to qualify for assistance.
Superior city officials said the damage tally there is at $2 million and counting. Mayor Bruce Hagen expects that number to rise as they assess more damage to the sediment that needs to be excavated from the city’s sewage treatment pond.
State Sen. Bob Jauch, D-Poplar, said the declaration provides assistance that will cover up to 75 percent of repair costs for state and local government facilities and infrastructure.
“Local and state taxpayers simply would not have been able to afford to pay the costs associated with the storm damage on their own,” he said.
Douglas County Emergency Management Director Keith Kesler said the once-in-a-century flood overwhelmed the budgets of small towns.
“This is super. The townships were really going to be hurting big,” Kesler said. “Talking to these folks, it was going to have a negative effect on a lot of things that communities wanted to do. It was going to affect their fire departments. You know, money’s got to come from somewhere, and this will help.”
The Superior Telegram contributed to this report.