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Federal aid could bring in $6.2 million for flood recovery

By Matthew Stolle and Mike Klein

Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

Wednesday’s federal disaster declaration for four southeastern Minnesota counties could bring $6.2 million in federal aid to help rebuild after devastating floods.

The four counties — Fillmore, Houston, Mower and Freeborn — sustained an estimated $8.3 million in damage to public infrastructure due to flooding June 7-8 and 12. Typically after a disaster declaration, the Federal Emergency Management Agency pays 75 percent of the rebuilding costs, the state government pays 15 percent and local governments pay 10 percent, said Kurt Kuhlers, emergency manager for Houston County.

"It’s definitely going to help," Kuhlers said.

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The aid is for damage to public infrastructure such as roads and bridges, and FEMA officials will now visit the counties to work with local governments. So far the counties haven’t met the threshold to qualify for individual assistance, Kuhlers said.

The declaration comes after Gov. Tim Pawlenty declared a state of emergency for the four counties and sought a disaster declaration from the president. The declaration, in effect, means that the incident is of such severity that it is beyond the capabilities of the state.

Joe Hoffman, Preston city administrator, said the declaration will "definitely help us get back on our feet." The storm flooded 10 to 12 blocks of Preston’s older downtown area, as well as homes in a floodplain.

Officials estimate that Preston suffered $225,000 in damage to its public infrastructure, including its underground sewer and storm sewer systems. Some of that damage is insured, but most of it is not, Hoffman said.

Of the $8.3 million in damage, roads and bridges made up about $5 million. Mower’s initial damage estimate was about $1.8 million, Fillmore and Houston counties were roughly $3 million each, and Freeborn’s was $475,000.

Earlier this month, southern Minnesota received up to 10 inches of rain, causing flash floods, mudslides and power outages. That was followed by more severe weather that included several tornado touchdowns. The combination of weather events caused creeks and rivers to overflow and resulted in one death west of Austin.

FEMA help

After a disaster declaration, FEMA usually pays for 75 percent of:

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  • Repairing or replacing damaged public facilities, such as roads and bridges.
  • Removing debris from public areas and taking emergency measures
  • Long-term hazard mitigation projects.

Source: FEMA

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