By Rachel E. Stassen-Berger
President Obama signed a disaster declaration on Monday to assist eight Minnesota counties in recovery from the summer storms and floods, the White House said.
The declaration makes Chippewa, Freeborn, Jackson, Murray, Nobles, Pipestone, Renville and Rock counties eligible for federal recovery funding. With the disaster declaration, the federal government will pay 75 percent of approved expenses and the state will pick up the rest.
Those eight counties suffered at least $10 million worth of damage, with southwestern Rock County coping with more than $5 million worth of damage that needs repair.
The state has a $3 million disaster fund to help pay its share of those costs. Gov. Mark Dayton said Monday it may have other resources to fill part of the remainder.
But more cash may be needed.
Federal Emergency Management officials said "damage surveys are continuing in other areas, and more counties and additional forms of assistance may be designated after the assessments are fully completed," the White House said in a news release.
Since the state was not ready to request disaster declarations in all the damaged counties, Dayton decided to submit the paperwork in stages.
"That was my call. I wanted to get the request in," Dayton said. By early July, Dayton had declared a state of emergency in 51 of Minnesota's 87 counties after severe flooding and damaging storms.
According to Dayton's office, preliminary figures show at least $37 million worth of federal disaster-eligible expenses in 31 counties. About $16 million of that will go to repair damaged roads and bridges, while another $5.2 million will be needed to fix parks and other recreational facilities. The June storms, which caused severe floods, mudslides and other damage, also resulted in more than $3 million worth of costs for debris removal. Other counties are still working to complete their paperwork and federal assessments.
All told, local officials have found at least $59 million worth of damage related to the storms that swept through Minnesota between June and July. Those costs may not all be covered by federal funds. The rolling nature of the disaster declarations means that Dayton is not ready to call for a special session of the Legislature to appropriate more funds.
"It is a question of the timing of it," Dayton said on Monday. "I can't say today if and when I'll call a special session."
Early in July, the governor said that his office had confirmed that the construction-torn Capitol could be made ready for the rush of lawmakers, the press and lobbyists if needed before next year's regular session of the Legislature.
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