Governor requests state funding to help cover initial costs of February floods

OLYMPIA - Responding to severe damage caused by heavy flooding earlier this month, Governor Mike Lowry has asked the state Legislature to authorize $18.5 million in expenditures from the state General Fund to help cover costs resulting from the worst flooding on record in Washington state.

The governor's request, conveyed in a letter sent to legislative leaders last week, also asks for approval of $170.5 million in appropriation authority from other sources, primarily federal funds earmarked for repairs to homes, roads, bridges and sewage systems damaged in the February flooding.

The total cost of repairing damage caused by the February floods is expected to exceed $319 million over the next five years, according to preliminary estimates by state, federal, and local agencies. That follows an estimated $64.5 million in damages caused by flooding and wind storms in November and December of 1995, for which the governor has already requested $4 million in state appropriations in the 1995-97 budget period.

Legislative leaders are currently negotiating a supplemental budget designed, in part, to take into account changes that have occurred since the state's current two-year budget was signed into law last year.

"These back-to-back disasters have had a devastating impact on people and their property, as well as on Washington's economy and the environment," Lowry said. "This supplemental budget request will ensure that the recovery process can continue unimpeded."

A majority of the state funding requested by Lowry to address flood damages would be used to meet federal matching-fund requirements for federal assistance administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). In addition, the governor has asked for state appropriations to help local governments meet their own matching-fund requirements and repair damage to publicly owned dikes and levees, which are not eligible for federal assistance.

The major components of the governor's funding proposal are summarized below.

The $319 million in estimated damages from the February floods far exceeds the previous record of $77.6 million, sustained during the flooding in November and December of 1990. The American Red Cross has reported that 691 homes were destroyed and 4,564 others were damaged by this month's flooding, which wreaked devastation in 26 Washington counties and the Yakama Indian Reservation.

Through Feb. 26, FEMA had received more than 9,000 calls from residents applying for disaster assistance and issued 2,039 checks totaling $5.4 million for emergency housing assistance in conjunction with the Emergency Management Division of the Washington Military Department. The state-administered Individual and Family Grant Program had also issued 75 checks for a total of $237,598 as of that date.

"I'm very pleased that President Clinton responded so quickly to our request for a disaster declaration," Lowry said. "That allowed flood victims to report damages directly to FEMA through the federal teleregistration system, and begin receiving assistance checks right away."

Lowry emphasized that all cost estimates for the February floods are preliminary, and will likely rise once a complete assessment can be made. To report flood damages, individuals can call FEMA's teleregistration line at 1-800-462-9029.

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For more information, contact the Governor's Communications Office at 360-753-6790.