Disaster declaration frees federal funds

Posted: Wednesday, December 13, 2006

President George Bush signed a disaster declaration Dec. 8 for the Kenai Peninsula Borough and other areas hit by severe flooding in October, releasing much-needed federal funds to state and local recovery efforts.

A press release Monday from Gov. Sarah Palin’s office, said the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency announced the declaration late Friday.

Beyond the borough, the declaration also covers the Chugach and Copper River regional education areas (or REAAs).

An October storm system bringing a deluge of heavy rain and strong winds pounded parts of Southcentral Alaska for several days causing flooding and mudslides.

On the eastern peninsula near Seward, the Lowell Point Bridge was washed out, cutting of the Lowell Point community. High winds also cut electrical power to south Kachemak Bay communities from Halibut Cove to Nanwalek.

According to FEMA, the storm-damaged areas are now eligible for federal public infrastructure disaster relief from the impact of flooding, landslides, mudslides and high winds caused by power storms that struck the region between Oct. 8 and Oct. 13, causing major damage to roads, buildings and private property.

“I am pleased President Bush granted the state’s request for federal assistance,” Gov. Palin said.

“These storms caused widespread damage in Cordova, Valdez, Seward and many places in between. This assistance will go a long ways in making sure all of the impacted communities can return to normal.”

The declaration means the federal government will pay 75 percent of the cost of repairing eligible public infrastructure, the release said. The rest will be covered by the state.

The State Individual Assistance Program, enacted under the state disaster declaration, will assist individuals and families recover from the storm, the governor’s office said.

Borough Mayor John Williams, who was to visit the Seward area late Tuesday, said he was happy that the president had opened the door to federal aid.

“It means we will be reimbursed for a lot of the work we did, and people there can feel a little more secure,” he said.

In October, the mayor asked for and the assembly approved an outlay of $250,000 for emergency response and assessment.

In a FEMA press release Tuesday, Federal Coordinating Officer Bill Lokey said public assistance would be available to help replace infrastructure and reimburse for debris removal and emergency protective measures. FEMA grants would be available for state agencies, local governments, Indian tribes, Alaska Native villages and certain nonprofit organizations.

According to FEMA, the Dec. 8 declaration brings to three the number of disasters that Alaska and FEMA are managing from the Anchorage Joint Field Office.

In October, President Bush signed disaster declarations in support of the city of Hooper Bay, which is recovering from a fire in August, and the Chugach REAA, Mat-Su, and Denali Boroughs recovering from an August flooding and mudslide event.

According to the borough Office of Emergency Management, the Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management has extend the hours for its teleregistration hotline for the State Individual Assistance Program. This is only for the state’s program.

The hotline will be open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. until Friday to give those wanting to apply for assistance more time to do so.

The hotline number is (800) 921-3682.

Hal Spence can be reached at harold.spence@peninsulaclarion.com.

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