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$32M In Minnesota Public Property Flood Damage

By Bill McAuliffe?and Rachel E. Stassen-Berger, Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

July 02--Flood damage to public structures during Minnesota's rainiest June on record stands at $32 million, a figure likely to rise as floodwaters fall.

But even that initial assessment by local governments should qualify the state for federal reimbursements, state officials said Tuesday.

Hennepin County has taken a $14 million hit, said its emergency management director, Eric Waage.

Carver County has estimated damage at $9.2 million, state Homeland Security and Emergency Management director Kris Eide said. Metro counties suffered the most damage, she said.

Hennepin would need $4.03 million in damage to qualify for federal aid. "We've blown that out of the water," Waage said. Big costs in the county came from a mudslide at the University of Minnesota, sandbagging to protect Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park from Minnehaha Creek flooding and road damage.

County damage assessments are the first steps in qualifying for a presidential disaster declaration, which releases federal aid. The state needs to demonstrate $7.3 million in damage as part of the process.

Still calculating

"The bigger counties in the metro area aren't quite ready with all the documentation yet," Eide said. "But the initial impacts that they have given us to use have far exceeded our $7.3 million threshold."

The initial damage estimate of $32 million includes information from only 21 counties and none from Roseau and Lake of the Woods counties, which are still experiencing flooding. Eventually, about 40 counties are likely to have enough damage to need state or federal help.

Officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency visited four southwestern Minnesota counties Tuesday and will visit others in the coming weeks.

In Rock County, they'll see extensive erosion, pasturelands ruined by floodwater and miles of fences taken down by erosion and flood debris, said Eric Hartman, director of that county's land management office. Fixing the 600 sites with erosion damage identified so far or installing erosion-prevention features could cost $4.6 million alone. The county also has extensive road and bridge damage.

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Private land another matter

The damage reimbursed by a presidential declaration more than likely will apply only to public property -- roads, bridges, parks and schools -- and not homes.

In Hennepin County, Waage said, hundreds of homes were damaged. But homeowners will have to rely on federal flood insurance to cover damages -- if they have policies. Homeowners' insurance generally does not cover flood damage, and FEMA assistance to individual property owners is hard to come by.

In Edina, 48 homes have had flood damage, both from creek and other flooding, as well as from sewer backups. The city has encouraged residents to make sure their homeowners' policies cover sewer backup, since many do not, Edina spokeswoman Jennifer Bennerotte said.

Gov. Mark Dayton added that some insurance policies do not cover mudslide damage. Insurance policies should make those exceptions clear, he said.

Meanwhile, the Stillwater Lift Bridge is expected to reopen to traffic Wednesday afternoon, but state Transportation Commissioner Charles Zelle said some flooded roads may remain closed for a while. Part of Hwy. 93 near Henderson may be closed until the end of July, he said.

Every county in the state has experienced a declared disaster in the past 10 years, Eide said. "We are a pretty doggone flood-prone state," she said.

Agriculture Commissioner Dave Fredrickson said 80 percent to 90 percent of flood-damaged crops, farm equipment and livestock losses likely will be covered by insurance. At large farms, nearly all damage will be covered.

Home and business owners should start the recovery process by carefully tracking whatever messes the water left behind, state officials said. "Photographs, photographs, photographs to document the damage," said Mary Tingerthal, commissioner of the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency.

Tingerthal said Small Business Administration and state funds may help homeowners and businesses with low-interest loans or other assistance.

mcaul@startribune.com -- 612-673-7646 rachel.stassen-berger@startribune.com

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(c)2014 the Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

Visit the Star Tribune (Minneapolis) at www.startribune.com

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Distributed by MCT Information Services

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