Branstad asks for federal disaster aid

Gov. Terry Branstad is seeking a Presidential Declaration of Disaster for Webster County in a bid to get federal money to pay for repairing water-damaged roads and other infrastructure.

Branstad signed a letter Wednesday in which he asked President Barack Obama for the declaration for Webster County and 46 other counties, according to an announcement from the governor’s office.

Palo Alto, Sac and Wright counties are included in the request for federal disaster aid.

Branstad also activated the state’s individual assistance program for Webster County. That program will provide up to $5,000 to help people pay for repairs to their homes and vehicles, rent for temporary housing and replacing clothes and food lost to storm damage.

On June 7, Branstad issued a state proclamation of disaster emergency for Webster County as a preliminary step toward seeking the presidential declaration.

The Webster County area was soaked with heavy rains in late May that damaged roads, mostly in rural areas.

The Presidential Declaration of Disaster would cover the period from May 19 to July 17, according to Tony Jorgensen, the Webster County emergency management coordinator.

”They usually go forward a ways because sometimes it takes a while to locate and identify all the damage,” he said of the time frame that would be covered by the declaration.

After Branstad issued the state proclamation, a damage assessment team from the Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management Division visited Webster County to see if the problems were severe enough to warrant inclusion in a request for federal help.

Jorgensen said the county had to meet a threshold of $132,000 in damage costs to be included in the request. He said just one trouble spot – a road called Riverside Trail near Kalo – pushed the county well over that threshold. Repairs to that road are estimated to cost $268,000, he said.

He said that within Fort Dodge there’s an estimated $47,000 worth of repair work, mostly on trails.

Jorgensen said he expects to hear a response from federal officials in two to three weeks.

A Presidential Declaration of Disaster would provide money to local governments, but not individuals and families.

The state’s individual assistance program, operated by the Department of Human Services, does provide such help to those who fall within specified income guidelines.

An application for assistance through that program is currently available at www.dhs.iowa.gov.