Cass may be added to list of disaster counties
LAKE SHORE — The Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) is expected to rule in a week to 10 days whether Cass County can be added to the list of 13 Minnesota Counties already declared a disaster area from flooding rain and wind storms that have hit since May.
State officials will visit Cass County Thursday to evaluate public infrastructure damage records, then pass that information to FEMA for a decision, according to Kerry Swenson, Cass emergency services director.
The declaration would cover public infrastructure damage, which has exceeded the $97,000 FEMA threshold. County expenses so far have topped $3 million.
Known damages to privately owned Cass County properties have not been extensive enough to qualify private property landholders for FEMA funding.
The FEMA declaration for public infrastructure could qualify the county and cities and towns within the county for federal reimbursements of up to 75 percent of the amount each agency spends to repair damages, according to Kris Lyytinen, Cass assistant highway engineer.
The proposed special Minnesota legislative session will address whether the state will pay up to the balance 25 percent of local government costs, he said.
As of June 27, 185.7 miles of Cass County roads had been damaged.
Cass County sustained flood damage to roads in a May 26 and 27 storm that had the highest impact on the southern part of the county and June 19 and 20 in a storm that hit central Cass. Another rain and significant windstorm July 2 hit mostly northern Cass and some central areas.
The May storm dropped up to 12 inches of rain in some areas, with some hit by eight inches in 24 hours. The June storm was an eight-inch rain in 24 hours. The July storm caused more wind than rain damage, mostly downing large swaths of trees and blowing away smaller outbuildings.
Cost totals so far for road repair, culvert replacements and fallen tree removal have reached $191,000 from the May 27 storm, $2,315,000 from the June 20 storm and $870,000 from the July 2 storm, for a total loss of $3,376,000, according to Swenson.
These totals include Cass County’s expenses and those of May Township and the city of Cass Lake. The county still has to collect documentable expenses from other cities and townships and has some final repaving expenses to tally from washed out paved roads.
The land department also is still investigating reports of downed timber lost on plots the county had sold to loggers and in the county’s inventory of timberlands, according to Land Commissioner Joshua Stevenson.
County Engineer David Enblom reported he has used the entire county gravel stockpile to re-gravel the 46 washed out roads since these storms. Re-paving on washed out paved roads is scheduled for sometime next week, though those roads are now passable with gravel patches between paved sections, he said.
Another 259,000 tons of gravel will be needed to put at least two inches of finish gravel on the repaired, washed out gravel road sections, according to highway department estimates. This is expected to cost the county $2.3 million.
Three roads in central Cass still have water on them, but are passable as of this week.
Highway department employees worked 22 hours straight following the July 2 storm to cut trees fallen across county and unorganized township roads enough to re-open them to travel. Since then, county and U.S. Forest Services crews have been working to clear fallen trees from road right of ways.
Swenson reported power companies serving central and northern Cass areas sustained extensive infrastructure damage during the July storm.
Tuesday, the county board authorized the highway department to rent an employee’s logging boom truck to help with hauling away some of the downed timber.
Stevenson reported the land department removed downed trees from some tax forfeited lots in the city of Cass Lake that the county owns.
The county board voted to send letters of appreciation to the highway and sheriff’s departments for their work handling these emergency situations.