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Tallying damage: FEMA conducts damage assessment Wednesday

Jerry Bergquist

The process of obtaining a presidential disaster declaration for Stutsman County continued with a preliminary damage assessment conducted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency Wednesday.

The assessment is intended to verify the damage level to public infrastructure listed by Stutsman County and Jamestown.

"I'm pretty sure what we have is a lowball number," said Jerry Bergquist, Stutsman County emergency manager. "It's hard to come up with a damage estimate with the roads still underwater."

Bergquist said even the lowball estimate is about $1 million for damage to rural roads. Additional costs in Jamestown tally about $150,000, according to Reed Schwartzkopf, city engineer.

"This includes the engineering and other expenses associated with emergency measures," he said.

The threshold for a federal disaster declaration for Stutsman County is about $71,000.

The damage assessment includes township roads and county roads not part of the major collector system, according to Mickey Nenow, Stutsman County road superintendent.

If the FEMA assessment concurs with the local numbers, Stutsman County, along with all cities, townships and other political subdivisions, would be included in a disaster declaration request to the president from the governor's office. A decision from the president is expected in about two weeks.

If that declaration happens, the county, townships and cities will be able to recoup 75 percent of the cost of preventative measures and damage repairs from the federal government. The North Dakota Legislature raised the state share of disaster costs to 17.5 percent from 10 percent during the recent session. Local governments would be responsible for 7.5 percent of any costs.

The current assessment process is concerned only with damage to public infrastructure.

"There is no individual assistance contemplated at this time," Bergquist said. "The state is doing an assessment to determine if those criteria are met."

Individual assistance provides federal reimbursement for damage to owners of private property. People with damaged homes can call the North Dakota Flood Damage Hotline at 1-877-212-0316 to have their damages included in the assessment.

Bergquist said water levels remain high in rural parts of Stutsman County with no areas drying out enough for any of the roads to return to service. The county reports 116 locations in 44 townships either underwater or washed out.

Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at (701) 952-8452 or by e-mail at knorman@jamestownsun.com

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