Flood Disaster Declarations are Mounting in South Dakota

June 13, 2008

County commissions in five western South Dakota counties have issued disaster declarations because of flooding. More declarations are expected as the water recedes and more damage is found.

Butte, Haakon, Jackson, Lawrence and Ziebach counties have made disaster declarations.

Butte County Sheriff Fred Lamphere estimates that repairing or replacing bridges damaged or destroyed by floodwaters will cost “well into the millions” of dollars in his county alone. His estimates do not include damage in Belle Fourche, he said.

A series of storms that moved through the area early this month struck at least 30 counties, according to Brooke Bohnenkamp, public information officer for the state Department of Public Safety.

Even as representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency gather in Pierre to assist the state, information is still sketchy about the magnitude of the damage.

“The challenge with a flood is that you don’t know the extent of the damage until the water is gone,” Bohnenkamp said.

Haakon County highway superintendent Ken Neville estimates that his county has between $300,000 and $500,000 in damage. At least one bridge and three large culverts were destroyed by floodwaters.

Ron Roth, an external affairs officer with FEMA’s Region 8, said it is premature to speculate what assistance the federal government might be able to provide to local governments and private individuals in repairing damage.

After emergency managers have completed their assessment of conditions in their areas, the state and FEMA must evaluate the extent of damages to determine if the destruction meets the criteria for a presidential disaster declaration.

If it does, it will be up to Gov. Mike Rounds to request the disaster declaration, Roth said.

The governor has declared a state of emergency, which is a “step in the right direction,” he said. But, that doesn’t mean that financial help is on the way.

For now, the financial burden of repairing flood damage will be the responsibility of local governments and individuals.

“The whole concept behind the disaster-declaration programs is that when the state’s capabilities are overwhelmed, then the federal government comes in to assist,” Roth said. “I guess that’s what we’re looking at now. We just need to document and verify that, yes, state resources have been allocated and have been exhausted.”

Source: Rapid City Journal.

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