FEMA turns down Governor Otter's request for federal disaster declaration funds

Posted at 8:37 PM, Apr 03, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-04 03:28:01-04

In reply to Governor Otter's request for a federal disaster declaration, the Federal Emergency Management Agency ruled the damage from recent flooding in some Idaho counties wasn't severe enough to go beyond the financial capabilities at the state level.

The Governor announced plans Monday to appeal FEMA's decision.

"You know, that's their judgment," Governor C. L. "Butch" Otter said. "We're hoping we can change that."

Otter put in the request in late February, after the Magic Valley, Payette and Washington counties were hit hard with severe flooding. Monday, the governor told reporters he may have acted too soon.

"Maybe I was a little premature in my request but if that's the case, hopefully we can render that problem with our appeal," Otter said.

This year's winter storms have already already caused an estimated 30 million dollars in structural damage just to state roads and bridges alone, and with water levels well-above average and more rain on the way, Governor Otter hopes the feds will change their minds.

Since his request for federal assistance was made on February 28, flooding concerns have only grown along Idaho rivers, threatening homes, businesses and agricultural sites.

With 32 counties now under disaster declarations, Otter says more funding will likely be needed.

"Disasters, we believe, some are yet to come," Otter said. "In fact as recently as this morning I signed another disaster declaration adding additional counties because of flooding."

Governor Otter says the flooding aftermath will cost the agricultural sector in the Weiser and Payette drainage areas, along with the Magic Valley, roughly 100 million dollars, and this early in the season the future is unknown.

"If this weather turns warm, which it's likely to do, if we have additional rain, which we are likely to have and it is in the forecast, than that flooding could get much worse," Otter said.

The Governor's Office is already working on an appeal to the federal government, adding additional counties to his request.

50 million dollars has already been allocated to disaster relief at the state level, but with a majority of that money already designated to roadway repairs, Otter is hoping the feds will step up with additional support.