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Floodgates Closing For Disaster Projects Batt Says Funding Priorities Must Be Set For Critical Needs

Erosion control along the Coeur d’Alene Parkway is the only flood-related project for which a promise of state funding was withdrawn.

But it may not be the last, a spokesman for the Bureau of Disaster Services said Friday.

The state has not run out of money to make matching grants for such federally funded projects, Darren Blagburn said, but Gov. Phil Batt has started to set priorities, spending money only to protect life or repair critical infrastructure, such as roads and bridges.

“There have been so many disasters over the last 2-1/2 years and no guarantee we won’t have problems this winter or next spring,” Blagburn said.

“They’ve got to be more careful.”

Some money in the disaster relief fund comes from a gas tax increase designated for road repairs. The rest is general fund money allocated by the Legislature.

There have been three major disasters in less than three years.

The disasters hit hardest in North Idaho.

Bills are just coming due for work related to the February 1996 floods. The state will spend $2.8 million to pay its 25 percent share of the 20 projects eligible for just one federal program: the hazard mitigation grants provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The Parkway erosion-control project is meant to protect the Centennial Trail from being undermined by Lake Coeur d’Alene, which rose to record levels last spring.

The Idaho Parks and Recreation Department is working to raise $50,000 to replace the matching money it won’t be getting from the state’s disaster fund.

The rest of the $200,000 would be paid for by the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

, DataTimes

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