May 22, 2018
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Rain damage qualifies Maine to pursue disaster aid

By Sharon Kiley Mack, BDN Staff

MACHIAS, Maine — A powerful rainstorm earlier this month caused at least $1.7 million in damage to Maine, qualifying the state to seek federal emergency disaster assistance, Gov. John Baldacci announced Wednesday.

Baldacci said he sent a letter to the regional administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, indicating the damage total and requesting an immediate damage assessment. The governor also directed the Maine Emergency Management Agency to provide FEMA with any new totals and information.

“We are continuing to gather damage reports,” Baldacci said.

Maine passed the $1.67 million federal threshold for emergency disaster assistance, a level that is expected to trigger infrastructure repair funding to dozens of Maine cities and towns in four affected counties: Washington, Aroostook, Piscataquis and Penobscot.

“We are really pleased about this,” Baldacci said. He had toured Washington County and the rain-ravaged area around Calais and Baileyville last week and said he was shocked by what he saw.

The rainstorm on Dec. 12 and 13 dropped between 8 and 10 inches of rain on the northeastern part of Washington County, which was hit hardest.

“When I sat down with [Calais City Manager] Diane Barnes last week, I was determined that we would keep vigilant on seeking funding,” Baldacci said.

In the city of Calais alone, almost $900,000 in infrastructure damage has been reported.

“This is good news for Calais and all of Washington County,” Barnes said. Barnes said she would expect site inspectors to arrive quickly but with more than a foot of snow on the ground now and repairs already made, she is unsure how much they can personally view.

“That’s why the photographs we took to document everything will really tell the story,” she said.

Baldacci said damage averaged $1.39 per capita across the state, but $34 per capita Down East.

Washington County easily met its threshold of $600,00, but it was additional damage that put the state over the top.

Aroostook County was the second-hardest hit area in the state, Baldacci said, with damage there topping $281,000.

The totals do not include washouts and problems on any state-owned roads or damage to the Rails-To-Trails Sunrise Trail, which was heavily damaged. It does include between $100,000 to $200,000 damage to the Eastern Maine Electric Cooperative’s power lines.

Washington County Emergency Management Director Mike Hinerman explained last week to the governor that although private damage — such as undermined railroad tracks in Baileyville and damage to the Woodland Pulp LLC mill — cannot be used to reach the threshold, EMEC is a nonprofit cooperative and can be counted.

U.S. Sen. Olympia J. Snowe, R-Maine, applauded Baldacci’s request for a Preliminary Damage Assessment. She said it is the first step toward qualification for a Presidential Disaster Declaration, which would provide federal assistance for the cost of repairs.

“I intend to work with the governor, as well as my colleagues in Maine’s Congressional delegation, to ensure the victims of this storm receive the assistance they need to make critical repairs,” Snowe said in a prepared statement.

If a Presidential Disaster Declaration is approved, the federal government will contribute up to 75 percent of the cost of necessary repairs. The state of Maine would contribute 15 percent of the cost and local governments would contribute 10 percent.

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