A letter promising flood relief brought sighs of relief Friday from officials in North Idaho counties.
Gov. Phil Batt officially informed the 10 northern counties that the state will assume their costs from damage caused by the disastrous February 9 flood.
“When I saw that letter today, I was really pleased,” said George Currier, Benewah County civil defense director. “Things are looking a lot brighter now than they were Feb. 9.”
The state will spend approximately $5 million for the state and local share of federal individual and family grants, public infrastructure costs and “mitigation,” or flood prevention.
The federal government is picking up the other $20 million of those costs, according to the state Bureau of Disaster Services. Those figures are estimates because some damage assessments are not complete.
Originally, the federal government was to pick up 75 percent of the costs, the state would cover 15 percent and local governments were to come up with 10 percent matching funds.
Batt’s letter states that he directed the state to pay 100 percent of the state and local share of the costs.
“The governor felt like the state could find it in the budget to do that and he knows especially the small taxing districts don’t have the resources to come up with the extra money,” said Amy Kleiner, Batt’s spokeswoman.
Bill Schwartz, director of Kootenai County Disaster Services, was appreciative.
“That’s great, because that takes the burden off the county government,” he said. “Take just the debris removal. At $400,000, 10 percent of that is a lot of money.”
Currier said Benewah County has approximately $2 million worth of flood damage to repair. Some of that is roads, however. That state had already vowed to cover 100 percent of the road and bridge repairs.
Aside from roads, the county lost its marine deputy’s boathouse, sand washed away from the city beach, equipment was lost and debris piled up everywhere.
Almost all of those costs will now be covered by the state and federal governments.
“It’s going to make a big difference,” he said. “We don’t have a lot of surplus money. It would have been really difficult to come up with the match.”
Other big-ticket items, such as repairing the Meadowhurst and Riverdale dikes, will have to be financed through other means.
County officials completed a federal grant application Friday asking for $2 million to repair the dikes. The money is available from a recent Congressional budget appropriation to repair flood damage in the Northwest.
While Currier was grateful for the state’s help, he said he wasn’t surprised that Batt responded.
“He’s been up here quite a few times,” Currier said. “He’s been deeply affected by what he saw, you could tell.”