Governor includes county in federal disaster request

By SUE RYAN

News staff writer

December 13, 2006

Gov. Ted Kulongoski has asked President Bush for a presidential disaster declaration for Oregon counties affected by November’s massive flooding.

“Given the amount of damage, we need the federal government to partner with us so our communities can begin to rebuild their homes, businesses and roads, and to help us mitigate damage from future flooding or other natural disasters,” Kulongoski said.

The request went in Monday and included Hood River as well as Lincoln, Tillamook, and Clatsop counties under it.

The total amount of damage assessment for all four counties was $6 million. Hood River County had initially submitted $27 million in damages with an additional $22 million in potential losses for the agricultural industry.

Part of the reduction came from damages being excluded because they were covered by insurance, or damages that were the responsibility of another agency.

For Hood River County, the majority of damage occurred Nov. 6 and 7 when the county had record rainstorms resulting in debris flows and high water from its southern edge near Mount Hood to the Columbia River.

“We’re glad to see that Hood River County was included and that will enable the public entities to get some relief for damages and mitigation efforts,” said Dave Meriwether, the county’s administrator.

He said that unfortunately the declaration did not include funding for private properties and businesses in Hood River County. Mt. Hood Railroad had reported damages of more than $1.2 million. Tillamook County was the only county that had a high enough damage level for the governor to also request a Physical Disaster Declaration from the Small Business Administration. That could make low interest loans available for homeowners and businesses.

“The level of damage and loss here do not rise to a level to make that an eligible declaration here. We’ll continue to work with those businesses to help them find relief,” Meriwether said.

Federal Public Law 93-288 requires that public entities filing applications for disaster relief must accept responsibility for 25 percent of the loss.

For Hood River County, multiple sites suffered damages. Among those are the Ice Fountain Water District, the Farmers Irrigation District, and the Middle Fork Irrigation District.

Floodwaters deposited 15 feet of debris in the Ice Fountain district. Its other damages included an exposed wall that was eroded by the Hood River and its spring’s capacity being reduced.

The Farmers Irrigation District main canal inlet facility sustained heavy structural damage during the flood and its access road was washed away. Both control gates were damaged and up to 300 feet of canal was filled in with silt and rock.

The Middle Fork Irrigation District lost Penstock line (steel pipe) from Laurance Lake to the settling basin. The flood and debris torrent also took out the Eliot Branch Diversion and lost roadway to the Coe Branch diversion.

The decision on whether or not the federal government will award disaster relief should come from FEMA within the next few weeks.

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