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City Seeks Flood Relief

Posted: Tuesday, December 06, 2005

City leaders are seeking state and federal disaster relief after two weeks of heavy rain led to at least $500,000 in damage.

Costs could leap to $1 million when repairs are finished, City Manager Rod Swope said.

The Juneau Assembly unanimously approved a resolution Monday asking the state and federal governments for funds to repair damage caused by last month's storms. The resolution approves the city manager's emergency declaration on Dec. 1.

The declaration sets the stage for state officials to review the damage and make recommendations to the governor's disaster cabinet for relief money. Some claims may also be eligible for federal assistance.

Three teams from the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management arrived in Juneau on Monday night to begin assessing the damage in the borough, as well as claims in Haines, Hoonah and Angoon.

Haines has already submitted a disaster declaration. Damage in Sitka was not severe enough to merit assistance, said Bob Stewart, state division response and recovery manager in Fort Richardson.

Officials will race to complete paperwork that needs to be finished no more than 30 days after the storm's end to apply for federal help. Stewart said his office is still determining when the storm ended but is guessing the date is either Nov. 25 or 26.

"We've got a fairly close window that we are operating with here," Stewart said.

Record rainfall and high winds brought mudslides, flooding and downed trees. Patterson's office collected damage reports that will be handed over to the state office for review.

A mudslide on Starr Hill sent a tree crashing through one couple's bedroom, displacing them from their home. Several other houses were flooded.

Those lacking flood insurance policies will have to rely on the government for some kind of help, but may or may not receive it, said city emergency program manager Michael Patterson.

"Some tough lessons were learned," Patterson said.

Water ran through the floors of the Canton House restaurant and other businesses in its building near Nugget Mall. Sections of roads were covered with debris and Patterson estimates trails will need about $50,000 for repairs.

Patterson expects some confusion over which claims qualify for state assistance and which should be left for the insurance companies to cover.

"Insurance should be a primary means of getting damage taken care of," he said. "The state is there to assist those who are overwhelmed."

In a few cases, the damage to roads could be more than $100,000, Patterson said.

The state emergency-management teams hope to meet with the governor's cabinet by Dec. 19 or 20 with a report on the damage. If the governor declares Juneau a disaster area, some immediate state disaster relief funds could be available, Stewart said. But that money is also being used for 15 to 16 other state emergencies, he said.

The state team would then go back and review the claims in detail before submitting a fiscal report for the Alaska Legislature to approve funding in a supplemental budget next session, Stewart said.

• Andrew Petty can be reached at andrew.petty@juneauempire.com



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