U.P. flooding prompts Michigan officials to request federal disaster declaration

By Lauren Gibbons
MLive.com, Walker, Mich.

Michigan lawmakers and government officials are asking President Donald Trump to issue a federal disaster declaration to help communities in the Upper Peninsula recover from severe flood damage.

On June 17, strong storms moved across the U.P., dropping seven to 10 inches of rain in several hours. It was enough water to damage roads and bridges in three counties, and as many as 60 sinkholes were reported across the Keweenaw Peninsula.

Lt. Governor Brian Calley on Monday requested Trump make a disaster declaration to free up federal aid for eligible residents, businesses and local governments. If granted, that assistance could include grants for temporary housing and home-repairs, low-cost loans to cover property loss and covering some of the infrastructure repair costs shouldered by state and local governments.

The request came after state officials concluded results of a damage assessment conducted late last month warranted additional help from the federal government. Gov. Rick Snyder issued a state disaster declaration for Houghton and Menominee counties on June 18, and added Gogebic County to the declaration on June 21.

“I commend our first responders, volunteer organizations and local residents for pulling together to recover from this historic flooding, and we continue to look for any available resources to help these communities rebuild,” Calley said.

U.S. Rep. Jack Bergman, R-Watersmeet, and U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters co-signed a letter to Trump Tuesday urging him to approve Calley’s request.

They asked Trump to act quickly, especially considering that extreme and unpredictable weather conditions the Upper Peninsula faces during winter months could exacerbate the issue.

“The people of the State of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula are resilient, and we commend the work of federal, state, and local officials to promptly assess the damage from the flooding,” the lawmakers wrote. “Any damage that is not addressed before the season ends could be compounded by the snow melt in the spring and increase the risks to the affected communities.”

Earlier this month, the Federal Highway Administration announced $2 million would be sent to Michigan for emergency repairs to roads and bridges that were damaged by the flooding. Officials said the funds are the first installment of what the federal government plans to send in aid.

The emergency funding will be used to restore main traffic routes for communities in Gogebic, Houghton and Menominee counties.

During the flood, a large culvert washed out on M-26 between Tamarack and Dollar Bay. M-203 had multiple washouts and mudslides between Hancock and Calumet, with a large culvert washed out at Swedetown Creek. The road shoulders on U.S. 41 between Chassell and Houghton were also washed out in numerous places.

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Posted by Tribune News Services

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