County agencies claim over $1 million in storm costs for FEMA relief funds

February 4, 2012

Cost estimates are still being tallied for last month's snow and ice storm, and for Hood River County's public infrastructure, estimates have already surpassed $1 million.

In an Initial Damage Assessment presented Thursday to Oregon's emergency management agency, the county's damages and costs associated with the week of severe weather impacted the county's public works, local governments, nonprofits and special districts to the tune of $1,014,588.06.

The figure includes estimates of actual physical damage, as well as costs like overtime pay, loss-of-revenue, debris removal and additional labor, but does not include loss or damage to the general public's personal property.

Statewide, reported damages for the same storm were up to nearly $40 million as of Friday morning, with Marion and Benton counties reporting a little more than half of the total damage amount due to severe flooding that inundated a large part of the Willamette Valley. For Hood River County it wasn't flooding but heavy snow and rain followed by a severe ice storm that caused the damage.

Federal Emergency Management Agency inspectors visited Hood River Friday to evaluate the situation and interview entities that claimed damages on the IDA. Information from affected counties across the state will be compiled and reviewed by FEMA. The agency will then make a recommendation to President Obama, who will make the final declaration.

"Based on the current data and what I have seen in the past, I'm confident there will be a disaster declaration by the president," said Karl Tesch, Hood River County's emergency management coordinator.

If that is the case, entities that filed claims will likely be reimbursed for costs incurred from the storm.

The largest claim amount in the county came from Hood River Electric Co-op., which reported $342,000 in costs from the event. While in major cleanup mode just after the storm, HREC General Manager John Gerstenberger said the event is the worst he's ever seen in terms of damage to the agency's infrastructure.

In a close second, the City of Hood River listed a claim $336,107.08, mainly incurred by the emergency response to a landslide that threatened the city's water pipeline at a crossing over the Hood River.

"The biggest cost we incurred -- at about $275,000 -- was to stabilize the city water line near the slide," said Bob Francis, city manager. "We're hoping FEMA funding will take care of the costs. We don't ask for the help very often, and when we do it's for good reason."

Francis noted that federal funds were granted to the city last year to rebuild an aged truss bridge that carried the city's waterline over the Hood River south of Tucker Park. It was, Francis said, "just in the nick of time," since two trees involved in the landslide fell across the new truss. The trees - and not the water line - snapped in two and fell into the river.

Farmers Irrigation District also reported high costs from the storm, mainly in the form of lost revenue from not producing hydroelectricity.

"We went offline on January 18 and haven't been generating power since then," said Jer Camarata, interim FID manager. He said the reason generators are still offline is due to electrical damage and blown-out substation surge arrestors caused by power surges. "Some of our other costs include debris removal, electrical system damage, repairs to damaged canal banks and damage to water quality monitoring equipment. We had so many trees fall across our roads and infrastructure that we stopped counting at 500," he said.

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