ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP/WCCO) — Recent flooding across Minnesota has caused at least $32 million in public infrastructure damage, state leaders said Tuesday while warning that the total is likely to rise.
Gov. Mark Dayton and his emergency managers provided the estimate as the Federal Emergency Management Agency dispatched teams to survey the fallout from sustained rains that led to overflowing lakes and rivers. The state officials said the early tally makes them confident that Minnesota will be eligible for federal assistance to offset costs of response and recovery. Flooding damage was seen in nearly half of Minnesota's counties.
"Most areas flood waters are receding from rivers and creeks," Governor Mark Dayton said.
Good news for more than half the state's counties that have been underwater because of recent flooding.
Now the real work begins – assessing the public infrastructure damage to see if Minnesota qualifies for federal assistance.
"We have five counties tabulated so far, that have 32 million dollars of damage. This hasn't be verified by FEMA but it makes it almost certain that we will qualify for the 7.3 million dollar threshold for the state," Dayton said.
As the federal team headed to four southern counties, state emergency management director Kris Eide said two northern counties "still are in the flood fight" and keeping eyes on Rainy Lake and Lake of the Woods, which have yet to crest.
Carver County, situated southwest of the Twin Cities, has turned in the biggest damage total so far at $9.2 million because of severe problems with roads and a wastewater treatment plant. In St. Paul, the Mississippi River was finally receding after swallowing up downtown access roads and an island park. The high waters already forced the relocation of a major city food festival and the annual Fourth of July Fireworks display.
The state has a $3 million relief fund to help match federal disaster aid. Dayton hasn't ruled out calling a special legislative session if the state account is tapped out, but said it was premature to decide on that.
"We are going to make sure there is no gap in the availability of state money," Dayton said.
Minnesota needs to clear a $7.3 million statewide damage threshold to qualify for a presidential disaster declaration. Not all of the early figures count because some washed-out highways could be repaired using other pots of money.
Some road repairs have already been done while other surfaces are so damaged it could take until late summer to fully fix them, Transportation Commissioner Charlie Zelle said.
The figures supplied Tuesday don't factor in damage to homes and businesses over the past few weeks. Those problems wouldn't be covered by federal disaster aid, but people could qualify for other government assistance such as low-interest loans and grants.
Minnesota's disaster request could be submitted by the end of next week. This flooding has been more widespread than usual, but Eide said every county has been subject of a declared disaster over the past decade.
"We are a pretty doggone flood-prone state," she said.
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