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Cost of Yukon River flooding about $70M

Posted: October 26, 2013 - 11:10pm

FAIRBANKS — The widespread Yukon River flooding last spring is expected to cost state and federal governments about $70 million in response and recovery efforts, according to an Alaska emergency management official.

The federal government will pay about 70 percent of that estimated cost, John Madden, director of the state Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner on Thursday. Madden said the state will pay for the remaining 30 percent.

The department expects to ask state lawmakers to pay for the state’s share of disaster assistance. Madden said the labor of volunteer workers this summer would probably be valued in the millions of dollars.

The spring breakup floods were declared a national disaster after water and ice damaged structures in eight communities. The declaration made funding available for emergency work and repairs.

Many of the 500 residents of Galena, a community 270 miles west of Fairbanks, were evacuated. Madden said about 40 people remain displaced, with most staying in Fairbanks. Another 20 are staying at a shelter in Galena.

The flooding knocked out power in the community and brought a number of secondary problems, including how to keep bears away from hundreds of pounds of game meat that spoiled in residents’ refrigerators and freezers. The flood also washed out the road to the community’s landfill.

School began three weeks later than normal in the badly damaged community. The Galena City School District had to tackle problems related to the flooding, including the loss of some students’ homes.

The district also used schools as staging areas and living spaces for displaced residents. Officials said none of the summer maintenance could be accomplished for most of the break. Repair work and basic maintenance had to be done after the first week of August, when the schools were closed to recovery efforts.

For Galena, it was particularly trying because its boarding school serves scores of students from dozens of villages. The school has about 3,800 residents.

In Circle, about a dozen homes were lost, with most made habitable again in the community of about 90 people about 125 miles northeast of Fairbanks.

Victims of Alaska’s spring flooding had until late September to apply for disaster grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and physical-damage loans from the Small Business Administration. People have until March 25 to submit applications for SBA economic injury loans.

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