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Carlson Plans to seek aid; also wants forested areas cleared

BEMIDJI - Sen. John Carlson, R-Bemidji, said he plans to ask the Legislature to allocate funds to reimburse local cities for storm damage cleanup costs.

"I don't know if it will work, but I'm going to try," Carlson said.

The Legislature is expected to meet next month in a special session to consider relief funds for Duluth and northeastern Minnesota that were impacted by June 20 flooding.

Carlson said he also has discussed with Senate Majority Leader David Senjem, R-Rochester, the possibility of including funds for Bemidji, Deer River and Cass Lake.

Funds for local cities heavily damaged by last week's storms would pale in comparison to the funds need for northeastern Minnesota.

Those areas were declared last week by President Barack Obama to be disaster areas, meaning 75 percent of local government costs would be paid by the federal government. The state is expected to cover the other 25 percent, but the full Legislature needs to approve such a measure in a special session.

The state's application for federal aid for northeastern Minnesota listed public facility damage, such as roads, sewers and public buildings, at $108 million. Gov. Mark Dayton said Wednesday that figure could rise to $150 million.

The money needed for local cities is considerably smaller. John Chattin, Bemidji city manager, expects the city to incur costs in excess of $100,000.

Bemidji's insurance, through the League of Minnesota Cities, covers the replacement or repair of "scheduled property" such as buildings and playgrounds, Chattin said. It also covers tree removal for trees within 100 feet of scheduled property.

Insurance will not cover, however, the city's expenditures for cleanup, such as staffing needs for the Rako Street drop-off site or staffing and fuel needed to conduct curbside pickup of debris.

Chattin expects the gap between what the city's insurance covers and what the city is doing to eclipse $100,000.

"At this point, we're really going day by day," he said. "We won't have any good concept of the total costs until we're done."

The city's insurance adjuster is expected in Bemidji Tuesday to tour city sites and buildings, Chattin said. Staff continues to document all storm-related costs and examine what is reimbursable from insurance.

Carlson commended the response from cities such as Bemidji, Cass Lake and Deer River.

"They have done just an extraordinary job of helping the citizens and cleaning up the debris," he said. "It was something they didn't have to do, but it was the right thing to do and I applaud them for it."

Carlson said a state allocation of $200,000 to reimburse those cities for their expenses is reasonable.

"It's a drop in the bucket to what they need in Duluth, but it would make a big difference," he said.


Carlson also will ask for funds to allow the state's Department of Natural Resources to clean up and reforest parts of state forests hurt by last week's storms.

The storms caused extensive damage to 35,000 acres according to unofficial estimates, Carlson said.

"We have 100-year-old trees that we can't replace," he said. "My concern is we have this huge path of natural destruction."

Carlson referenced the 2011 fire that swept through the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and said he didn't want a similar incident to occur in this region because of all of the downed trees, branches and debris.

If cleaned up, he said, the DNR could pay to reforest that area for future generations.

"Look at what happened in the BWCA," he said. "No one was allowed to come in and clean it up and (that fire) is exactly what happens when don't do that," he said.