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Federal involvement becomes the focus

With damage at $10 million or more, disaster declaration sought

Published: Saturday, May 11, 2013 5:00 a.m. CST
Caption
(Herald Photo by Christina Chapman-Van Yperen)
State officials, including Sen. Sue Rezin and Rep. Pam Roth, have begun discussing what will need to be done to secure funding to repair the aqueduct on the Illinois & Michigan Canal that collapsed as a result of Nettle Creek flooding on April 18.

Earlier this week state and federal officials were escorted around Grundy County to witness first hand the damage Grundy obtained from the April 18 flood.

“This was primarily for justification to get the governor to ask the president to declare it (a major disaster area),” said Jim Lutz, director of the Grundy County Emergency Management Agency.

By Thursday, Governor Pat Quinn had asked President Barack Obama to declare 11 Illinois counties, including Grundy, major disaster areas due to the damage from the rainfall and flooding last month.

If Quinn’s request is approved, Grundy residents affected by the flooding will be eligible to apply for grants and low-interest federal loans to help them recover.

Counties included in the request with Grundy are Cook, DeKalb, DuPage, Ful-ton, Kane, Kendall, Lake, La Salle, McHenry and Will.

“We must do everything possible to help families impacted by this historic flooding as they rebuild their lives,” Governor Quinn said in a press release Thursday.

“Today we are making a strong case to President Obama to help expedite the review and approval process so the people of Illinois can soon receive the federal help they need.”

Five damage assessment teams including people with the Illinois Emergency Man-agement Agency, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the U.S. Small Business Administration and local officials have documented damage for more than 3,500 homes since April 29.

In the 11 counties, 41 homes were destroyed, 761 with major damage and 2,715 homes that also were damaged. In addition, nearly 80 businesses were damaged, according to the release. If the federal request is approved, affected businesses in those counties will be eligible to apply for low-interest SBA loans.

Lutz estimates the county received $10 million to $13 million in damage. The Morris Hospital alone, which was forced to evacuate patients and greatly reduce available services in the aftermath of the flooding, sustained about $2.5 million in damages.

Tours will continue next week, said Lutz, for officials to observe the public damage, such as to roads and bridges.

Governor Quinn also plans to seek federal assistance to help local governments recoup 75 percent of their eligible flood-related costs, according to the release. IEMA and FEMA are meeting with local governments to document expenses incurred for emergency protective measures, debris removal and repair or replacement of roads, bridges and other public facilities.

State Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, said she was on the house floor Thursday with state Rep. Pam Roth, R-Morris, and state Rep. Frank Mautino, D-Spring Valley, to discuss Morris’ historic aqueduct that carries the I & M Canal over Nettle Creek.

The structure collapsed during the flood.

“We talked about the situation with the aqueduct and the need for emergency funding to get that cleaned up so it is not a hazard,” she said.

The aqueduct will probably fall under federal, state and local jurisdictions for funding, said Rezin, making it a little more complicated than some of the other flooding situations.

Officials also have to look into whether it has to meet historical preservation restrictions when it is rebuilt, she said.

If the president decides to declare the counties major disaster areas, the process after should be fast moving, said Rezin. But how long it would take for the president’s decision is unknown.

“It is high on their radars,” she said. “We’re hoping that will continue to keep the process moving along.”

Lutz said it will be a long, on-going process. Now we just have to wait, he said. If the President does not declare the counties as major disaster areas, there is a 30-day appeal process.

“It is one of those things that never ends,” he said.

It will take a year or better locally, he said, to complete improvement plans, to analyze the causes of the flooding, and what can be done to prevent it in the future.

Lutz advises residents looking for federal assistance to keep good documentation, including pictures and bills, because if Grundy is declared, there will be another round of meetings with FEMA and other state and federal groups.

State officials expect the counties will be declared because the damage meets the criteria and the state intends to add additional counties, said Lutz.

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