Osceola one of 16 counties to receive federal disaster aid
OSCEOLA COUNTY — Federal disaster aid has been made available to 16 Michigan counties – including Osceola – to help with recovery efforts for flood damage from this spring.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency announced Michigan would be given the aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts in areas affected by flooding from April 16 to May 14.
Mark Watkins, program director of the Osceola County Emergency Management Department, said the aid opens up a public assistance program with the purpose of helping the local and state governments recover expenses from their response to the flooding.
“Primarily this will help fix roads, bridges, drain culverts and any other infrastructure that suffered significant damages from the flooding event,” Watkins said. “Those were our main issues. We had a few roads damaged, a few bridges and some culverts damaged."
This also will benefit local agencies that had significant responses during the flooding, including fire departments, Osceola County Road Commission and other agencies that had added responsibility in protecting lives and safety, Watkins said.
Watkins estimated $100,000 in damage occurred in Osceola County. That figure could change drastically, rising or falling, once the recovery process begins.
The next step is to wait for the applicant briefing.The county will present the damages suffered and FEMA will present programs to match them up, he added.
Projects could take months or even years to complete because the programs are not only supposed to fix the infrastructures, but also to make them more disaster resistant for the future, Watkins said.
“This was the 14th highest water level in our history, so there is the potential for that to reoccur and maybe be even be higher,” Watkins said. “So the mitigation part of the disaster relief is very, very key.”
Allegan, Baraga, Barry, Gogebic, Houghton, Ionia, Kent, Keweenaw, Marquette, Midland, Muskegon, Newaygo, Ontonagon, Ottawa, and Saginaw counties were the other Michigan counties to which relief aid was made available to.
A press release from FEMA names Mark A. Neveau as the Federal Coordinating Officer for federal recovery operations in the affected area. Neveau said additional designations may be made at a later date if requested by the state and warranted by the results of further damage assessments.
In May, Gov. Rick Sndyer declared a state of disaster for 19 counties and the cities of Grand Rapids and Ionia.
Michigan’s Democratic senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow sent a letter this month to President Obama, encouraging him to approve the governor’s request for a federal disaster declaration.
In response to the president’s approval of the federal disaster declaration, Levin issued a press release stating the assistance should help those hit hard recover faster.
“The prompt response of the President and FEMA to Michigan’s federal disaster needs is truly commendable,” Levin said. “The flooding in Michigan was historic and unlike anything seen in decades. State and local communities responded quickly, but with the damage so severe, federal assistance is necessary.”