Red River Valley: Federal aid follows disaster declaration
ST. PAUL -- President Barack Obama's major disaster declaration for flooded northwestern Minnesota counties clears the way for further federal assistance.
The declaration for seven counties along the Red River triggers federal assistance to state and local government and certain non-profit groups for emergency work and repair or replacement of disaster-damaged facilities.
A second type of aid resulting from the declaration is for actions taken to curb long-term natural disaster risks and is open to all Minnesota counties.
The disaster declaration is for Clay, Polk, Traverse, Wilkin, Norman, Marshall and Kittson counties. The Federal Emergency Management Agency said that damage surveys continue in other areas and more counties could be designated for disaster aid.
Obama earlier declared an emergency declaration for the flooded counties, but the major disaster declaration provides more federal assistance, Pawlenty spokesman Brian McClung said.
Pawlenty said in a news release that he is renewing a request that the federal government approve aid to individuals and households affected by the flood. Damage assessments related to individual assistance are under review.
Homeowners should get federal assistance, Pawlenty said.
The declaration came a day after Pawlenty said the Democrat-controlled Legislature has shortchanged flood-prevention projects in its public works spending bills.
The House on Monday passed its public works package, known as a bonding bill because projects are paid for with state-borrowed funds. The roughly $200 million bill includes about $12 million for flood-mitigation projects, less than half what senators proposed in a larger bill they passed earlier this session.
Both bills spend too much overall and not enough on flood-related projects in northwestern Minnesota and in other areas of the state, the Republican governor told reporters Wednesday.
Pawlenty said his office has a list of flood-mitigation projects around the state that will be ready to start within the next 18 months.
"They're shovel ready, they provide jobs, but more importantly it's a public safety issue and that should be a key priority," Pawlenty said.
Scott Wente works for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Bemidji Pioneer.