With FEMA visit, North Dakota officials continue to seek full declaration

FARGO – Gov. Jack Dalrymple said Monday the state will continue working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to upgrade the state’s limited presidential emergency declaration to include a federal cost-share for flood-fighting efforts and preparations.

Dalrymple took FEMA Regional Administrator Robin Finegan on an aerial tour this morning over widespread flooding in Fargo, Cass County and other areas of the Red River Valley.

Rep. Rick Berg, Major Gen. David Sprynczynatyk of the National Guard, Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker and Cass County Commissioner Darrell Vanyo also joined in the helicopter tour.

Interstate 29 from Argusville southward to Harwood was among the many miles of roadway across Cass County that was inaccessible by Monday morning due to overland flooding in the Red River Valley. Kristen M. Daum / The Forum

“I appreciate that Robin Finegan decided to come here, and I think she now has a much better appreciation for what we’re up against,” Dalrymple said. “We will continue to work with FEMA for a full emergency declaration that includes a federal commitment to help cover local costs of preparing for and fighting floods.”

President Obama approved a limited disaster declaration on Thursday, which made available federal agencies and their resources to help in the flood fight.

But under terms of the declaration, FEMA will pay 75 percent of costs incurred by federal agencies that support the flood fight only as of April 5 or after.

Unlike in past years, the declaration does not yet provide guaranteed federal funding in advance to help pay for flood costs.

The expenses incurred in flood preparations and repairs will have to be fully documented before FEMA will commit to a 75 percent cost-share.

Dalrymple encouraged North Dakota communities facing spring flooding to assess damages as flood waters recede and to document direct costs.

Dalrymple said the state will again request FEMA make funding available to help cover the costs of preventive measures and flood damages, even as the state’s flood fight continues to move up the Red River Valley  and across the state.

Sens. Kent Conrad and John Hoeven visited North Dakota on Saturday to review flood protection efforts in Fargo and Valley City.

The federal lawmakers praised local and state government leaders for their preparation efforts in what’s become the fourth highest flood in recorded history for the Red River. Hoeven and Conrad again emphasized their support for a full disaster declaration.

“Clearly, strong cooperation between federal, state and local partners is key to mounting a successful flood fight, which is why we must continue to work together to ensure that the president approve the Governor’s original disaster declaration request covering all of the difficult preparation that has gone into this flood fight effort,” Hoeven said in a statement.

FEMA officials said federal funding could be improved if the state and local governments incur at least $1 million in damages and costs for flood prevention.

Dalrymple said those costs across the state should far exceed the $1-million threshold.

“It doesn’t take long to add up to millions in damages,” Dalrymple said Sunday, referring to the approximately 60 miles of Cass County roadways made impassable by flooding.

This morning, Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney also reiterated his frustration at the lack of an emergency declaration for this year’s flood fight.

“We want the world to know what is going on here,” he said. “We still haven’t gotten our (full) declaration – and that is concerning. Big-time concerning.”

nrad, Hoeven Review Fargo, Valley City Flood Protection

Cities Prepared to Hold Back Flooding as Crests Near, Senators say

Fargo – Senators Kent Conrad and John Hoeven met today with city leaders and flood protection professionals in Fargo to review plans and inspect flood protection efforts ahead of projected record crests in the coming days. Both Senator Conrad and Senator Hoeven are conducting a similar review in Valley City later today.

Senator Conrad convened this briefing with Fargo and Cass County officials regarding ongoing flood preparations as the latest estimates show the Red River reaching 39.5 feet this weekend, marking only the third time the Red has reached that level in Fargo. Senator Hoeven has organized similar briefings in recent weeks.

The federal, state and local officials also inspected areas where sandbag and clay dikes have been built in and around the city.  Army Corps of Engineers Commander of the St. Paul District Col Michael J Price also took part in the briefing.

Noting that a task force from the Federal Emergency Management Agency had recently returned to North Dakota to supplement local efforts, the two Senators praised the work of Fargo officials and volunteers from Cass County and across the state, who will have filled and placed between 500,000 and 600,000 sand bags in an effort to protect the city.

Senators Conrad and Hoeven will take part in a similar briefing and inspection of flood protection efforts in Valley City this afternoon. Forecasts show a 50 percent chance of the Sheyenne River reaching 19.1 feet and a 10 percent chance of 22.8 feet in Valley City. The flood stage in Valley City is 15 feet. Officials there are anticipating a crest between April 14-17.

“This spring, the people of Fargo and Valley City have once again confronted a serious threat to their communities with a unified effort to hold back flood waters,” Senator Conrad said. “While our work is far from finished, the people of Fargo and Valley City have every reason to be optimistic that their efforts to protect their homes and businesses will be rewarded.”

“Once again the people of Fargo and Cass County, as well as Valley City and those along the length of the Sheyenne River have demonstrated tremendous courage and commitment to protecting their coties in the face of renewed flooding this year,” Hoeven said. “Clearly, strong cooperation between federal, state and local partners is key to mounting a successful flood fight, which is why we must continue to work together to ensure that the President approve the Governor’s original disaster declaration request covering all of the difficult preparation that has gone into this flood fight effort.”

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