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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Infrastructure Damage Widespread

Because of a presidential disaster declaration, most counties in Montana are eligible for both public-sector and individual assistance programs through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

FEMA picks up 75 percent of the cost of qualifying repairs to public infrastructure, such as roads and bridges, plus additional money for mitigation expenses for projects that reduce the likelihood of damage in future floods. That could mean that instead of just fixing a bridge approach to its original condition, FEMA would provide extra money for improvements that would make the bridge less vulnerable the next time a flood threatens.

The state is responsible for a 25 percent match, which comes from the state’s disaster fund, said Monique Lay, spokeswoman for Montana Disaster and Emergency Services. To be eligible for the state match, county commissioners must impose a 2-mill emergency levy.

Two mills doesn’t add up to much against the scope of this disaster. In Musselshell County, it’s about $17,000. In Big Horn County, two mills comes to about $40,000. It’s about $68,000 in Carbon County and $245,000 in Yellowstone County.

Yellowstone County DES coordinator Duane Winslow said Yellowstone County commissioners decided not to impose the emergency 2-mill levy, and did not seek reimbursement from FEMA for about $200,000 in flood-related infrastructure repairs.

Individual assistance to flood victims comes in the form of grants, and no match is required. It applies to primary residences and is designed to pay the cost of making a home livable again, not to replace everything that was lost.

Musselshell County

Jeff Gates, Musselshell County DES coordinator, said in late September that the county would be seeking nearly $4.25 million to cover infrastructure repairs.

“I know of at least another $300,000 coming in,” he said.

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