Representatives from FEMA, Minnesota Homeland Security Emergency Management and Fillmore County surveyed flood damage along Country Road 23 where a bridge had been washed out.  ANTON ADAMEK/BLUFF COUNTRY NEWSPAPER GROUP
Representatives from FEMA, Minnesota Homeland Security Emergency Management and Fillmore County surveyed flood damage along Country Road 23 where a bridge had been washed out. ANTON ADAMEK/BLUFF COUNTRY NEWSPAPER GROUP
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Representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Minnesota Homeland Security and Emergency Management (HSEM) visited and toured Fillmore County in response to damages reported following the June 23 flash flooding event. The July 10 visit was coordinated as one stop during a 17-county, multi-pronged assessment of damages sustained through severe weather from June 20 to June 26.

The same state and federal representatives had toured Houston County the day before and verified over $6.2 million in public infrastructure damage.

According to a release from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, the visit was to specifically assess damage to public infrastructure and some non-profit entities. Immediately following the flash flooding event, Fillmore County Emergency Management director Kevin Beck called on townships, cities and other public entities to assess and send in damage estimates. Those numbers were reviewed by the Fillmore County Board of Commissioners on July 2.

Once FEMA and HSEM arrived on July 10, those numbers, along with photo and paper documentation, were scrutinized. Under the direction of FEMA, township and city officials presented their assessments in the county boardroom during morning and afternoon sessions of a preliminary damage assessment (PDA).

Everyone was told that the results of the 17-county PDA would be held to the federal damage threshold of $7.266 million. If exceeded, HSEM would prepare a letter from Gov. Mark Dayton to be sent to President Barack Obama requesting a Presidential Disaster Declaration. Upon review by FEMA, the letter would be sent to the president. If approved, HSEM and FEMA would revisit Minnesota to help start the application process for cities, townships, county and public infrastructure damage.

Wayne Lamoreaux, HSEM engineering specialist, said FEMA would verify the eligibility of the county to receive assistance and return to the area in late July or early August.

At the meetings, staff representatives from Minnesota United States Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken also let local officials know that their legislators would lend support to any letter sent to the President asking for assistance.

In a statement released by Sen. Klobuchar, she said, "The June storms and flash flooding have placed an economic and financial drain on communities across southern Minnesota. I will continue to work alongside local officials to ensure residents and businesses have the resources they need to quickly recover and rebuild."

In a similar statement by Sen. Franken, he said, "In the wake of the June storms, we've seen serious damage to several communities in southeast Minnesota. But out of that devastation have come so many stories of Minnesotans helping Minnesotans. Right now state officials, along with FEMA, continue to assess the damage. And if the Governor requests federal assistance, I stand ready to support that request and do everything I can to help these communities get the resources they need to recover quickly."

Following the review of documentation, FEMA, HSEM, and county officials, along with several news media reporters, began a countywide tour of damage sites. According to a county report, they visited Carrolton, Holt and Norway townships, which sustained over $800,000 in public damage between all three.

They also toured Mabel and Canton and surveyed the bridge damage on Minnesota Highway 43 in Choice.

According to Beck, both the federal and state officials said the initial assessments were "well within reason." Beck said that accuracy was a credit to those local officials who usually do not have experience in assessing damage on this scale.

Beck also confirmed any relief which may come to the county from this assessment would be for public infrastructure only. He noted FEMA has higher thresholds for private landowners and there wasn't enough damage to exceed that mark.

Instead, he recommended individuals check out the Fillmore County website, co.fillmore.mn.us, for a list of resources. Additional funding is being sought through the Natural Resources Conservation Service's Emergency Watershed Protection Program, but not yet a guarantee.