Officials: Presidential disaster declaration could (maybe) come soon

Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker returns from a ride in one of Cass County’s new airboats Thursday afternoon during a practice run for the Otter Team on Cass County Road 18 east of Kindred, N.D. The airboats will be used to patrol the river and, if necessary, rescue stranded residents from floodwaters. Kristen M. Daum / The Forum

FARGO – Some government leaders in North Dakota said this afternoon that they believe the presidential disaster declaration for the state could come as early as tomorrow.

But… there’s no guarantee.

“My understanding is we may hear some news tomorrow,” Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker said this afternoon.  “Now, let me qualify that a little bit – I have never in my history with the city of Fargo, never seen that we didn’t get a declaration when we got the river up this high. It’s just strictly a formality.”

Walaker has worked for the city since 1974 and has served as Fargo’s mayor since 2006.

Government leaders at all levels have been waiting anxiously – and with mounting frustration – for President Barack Obama to sign off on the declaration that North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple requested six weeks ago.

The declaration would make available federal personnel, equipment and other resources to help in the Red River Valley flood fight. Specifically, it would allow some 70 people from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and Customs and Border Protection to assist Cass County Sheriff’s deputies in securing the area.

Meanwhile, North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven said he has once again urged Federal Emergency Management Administrator Craig Fugate to ensure swift approval of the state’s request for a presidential disaster declaration.

Although Fugate said he couldn’t say exactly when the request would be signed, he did say it is moving through the process, Hoeven’s office said.

Fugate apparently told Rep. Rick Berg the same today. “The request is under review and is moving through FEMA’s administrative process,” Berg’s office said in a statement.

When I spoke with FEMA spokesman Jerry DeFelice yesterday, I was given the same response: “It’s in process.”

Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney told me this morning that today’s article on the lack of federal resources did, at least, make waves to Washington, spurring further pressure on the White House and FEMA to act on the declaration.

He reiterated to me his frustration about the delayed process. Laney said officials from the city, county, various state departments, various federal agencies and members of North Dakota’s congressional delegation have all repeatedly contacted FEMA and the White House seeking an answer as to the status of the declaration.

Hopefully, we may know that answer soon – and with the crest predicted to reach Fargo in as early as three days, it can’t come soon enough.

2 thoughts on “Officials: Presidential disaster declaration could (maybe) come soon

  1. Pingback: Conrad: DHS will fast-track disaster declaration tonight | Flickertales from The Hill

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