Senators support disaster relief in flood’s wake

Staff reports

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Rob Portman (R-OH) are urging President Trump to act swiftly on Gov. John Kasich’s request for a Presidential Disaster Declaration for 19 Ohio counties impacted by severe flooding. This declaration will help ensure that the impacted counties can access important federal assistance and resources to recover.

“Severe storms and extreme rainfall last month in southern Ohio led to significant flooding, causing substantial damage to critical infrastructure, such as roads, bridges and buildings. The state and local governments in the affected areas do not have the capability to sufficiently respond to this major disaster, and, therefore, federal assistance is necessary to supplement the State’s recovery efforts,” Brown and Portman wrote in a letter to Trump.

In Kasich’s letter sent Tuesday to the President requesting relief, he noted that “the greatest impact from this incident is damage to critical infrastructure, such as roads, bridges and public buildings. There are reports of hundreds of road washouts. Some of these projects will require extensive engineering and design before construction can even begin, resulting in prolonged road closures, extensive detours and dangerous traveling conditions.”

Federal dollars also can go toward flood defense measures, such as were taken in Portsmouth.

Kim Carver, Emergency Management Assistance director for Scioto County, said officials should know the results of the governor’s request in two to three weeks, and is optimistic about the outcome for local governments.

“I’d say there’s a very good chance to get a federal declaration,” Carver added, saying the reason being various levels of government involved all met the financial thresholds for federal aid.

Locally, Scioto County alone turned in $4.1 million in flood-related costs. Nearby Lawrence County put in for about $7 million in aid. Statewide, the figure reached $44 million. Carver previously reported the Scioto County threshold was $293,000. She said the state needed to reach a $17 million figure. Obviously, the county and the state far exceeded the needed thresholds.

In response to last month’s flooding, Kasich issued an emergency proclamation Feb. 24 that ultimately included 20 Ohio counties. In mid-March, Carver and other local EMA officials conducted a meeting with city, village and township leaders to determine and document damages and expenditures related to the disaster. According to the governor’s office, in addition to the $44 million already mentioned, there is an additional $20 million in damages to Ohio highways. Kasich’s office stated, thanks in part to previous mitigation efforts, an estimated $19.9 million in additional damages were prevented.

In addition to Scioto County, other counties covered by Kasich’s request for federal assistance include Adams, Athens, Belmont, Brown, Clermont, Columbiana, Gallia, Hamilton, Hocking, Jackson, Lawrence, Meigs, Monroe, Noble, Muskingum, Perry, Pike, Vinton and Washington.

In Portsmouth, Carver said the city’s expenses include everything that was spent on flood defense, most notably the price tag for raising the city’s flood gates for the first time in 20 years. The city also operated water pumps as part of its flood defense.

Carver said Portsmouth also has considerable cleanup to undertake following flooding between the river and the permanent flood walls along Front Street. She said riverside parks, including the area used for the city’s annual River Days celebration, ended up underwater. Carver said the county is responsible for cleaning up parks along the river in the unincorporated area of West Portsmouth.

New Boston sustained flooding when the village’s pumps failed, and temporary replacement pumps were brought in from out of state. Carver said the cost of pumps is likely to be among that community’s chief expenses.

Staff reports