Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, May 7, 2001

State of emergency declared in McLeod County

By Gail Lipe

The McLeod County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution at a special meeting on Tuesday declaring that a state of emergency exists within McLeod County resulting from the spring flooding.

Emergency Management Director Kevin Mathews said McLeod County would have to declare a state of emergency before May 3 in order to qualify for reimbursement funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

The preliminary damage figures do not qualify the county for FEMA money, but Mathews said, once the water goes down and repairs done, the final figures probably will.

There is approximately $33,000 damage done to roads in the county, with most of the damage done to township roads, according to Mathews' preliminary figures. He said he has contacted all the townships and cities to see what damage has been done.

Nine gravel roads and two blacktop roads were closed in the county this spring, and most of them are still under water. Mathews said the townships are responsible for the repair of their roads, but if the county receives FEMA money, it will filter down to the townships.

The preliminary figure for protective measures is at $25,000. Mathews said that includes things like the purchase of the sandbags, the fuel for the pumps and the use of the pumps.

McLeod County would need to prove $90,000 in damage, or $2.59 per capita, to qualify for FEMA reimbursements.

McLeod County Commissioner Mel Dose asked Mathews if ditches that were damaged by the water would qualify.

Mathews said damage done to both public ditches and the two watersheds, High Island Watershed and Buffalo Creek Watershed, qualify. He also said cleaning debris out of ditches would qualify.

Mathews did not have ditches in the preliminary figures and will be adding between $1,750 and $5,000 for each district, depending on the damage estimates received from the commissioners.

He said he also would be contacting representatives from the watersheds before he sends the resolution and preliminary damage and impact statement to the state.

"My understanding is that FEMA officials will come to Minnesota beginning next week to assess the flood damage," said Mathews. McLeod County is one of 22 counties that FEMA will be looking at.

When asked about applying for FEMA reimbursement for roads that are under water every year, Mathews said FEMA has begun a "three strikes you are out" approach. If the road is damaged every year, then reimbursement for repair may not be received.

He also said hazard mitigation may begin on those roads. That means the roads will be looked at to see how future damage can be prevented. Things like raising the roads would be considered.

The resolution passed by the county board addresses only public properties. Mathews said it does not include private home damage, partly because he does not have the information necessary to submit it. He said private insurance policies may cover the damage.

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