Flood Repairs on Public Level Moving Forward, but Could Take Years

By KBJR News 1

November 23, 2012 Updated Nov 23, 2012 at 4:41 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNC NOW) - In Duluth's east end, Vermillion Road resident, Lee Stubenvoll, remembers waking up in her house on June 20th to an entirely new, and hostile, landscape. While devastation wracked much of the city, Vermillion Road took an exceptional beating.

"We had a chocolate lake in our front yard. There was a lot of water that was coming from the creek, and down the street. It was everywhere, it was loud, and it was moving," said Stubenvoll, standing outside of her home.

Once the flood waters receded, everyone—including Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton—was able to observe the overwhelming extent of damage to streets and sewers, and analyze the huge work load that lay ahead.

Stubenvoll says that the finishing touches on Vermillion were as recent as two weeks ago, but that reconstruction efforts have been steady since June.

"The city did come in and fill it, so we were able to drive on it and use it. It's worked out well," said Stubenvoll.

Mayor Ness says it's been a similar trend for public infrastructure repairs, helped along by President Obama's declaration of Northeastern Minnesota as an active disaster zone on July 6th.

On a federal level, FEMA was authorized to cover 75% of infrastructure repair, while Homeland Security and Emergency Management would cover the other 25% on a state level.

"From the very beginning, what we heard from other communities is that the pathway to restore and recover the public infrastructure was a much more straightforward process," said Ness.

To date, between the two organizations, more than $7,500,000 dollars have been spent on bridge, road, and other infrastructure repairs. About $2 million of that is on the HSEM, or state, level.

But there's more work to be done and more government reimbursement will come as repairs are completed. Projects are reimbursed through government worksheets--857 such sheets are expected to be filed in Northeastern Minnesota with 708 entered so far.

In Duluth, so far, only 30 of the anticipated 103 have been entered. But both organizations say they're doing everything necessary to put the recovery effort on the fast track.

That government assistance has allowed flood recovery efforts to focus on what officials say is the primary goal: unmet needs on the individual level.

"It was the uncertainty surrounding individual assistance, and getting to those homeowners whose lives were turned upside–down—that has been our focus," said Ness.

...a focus that includes everything from safeguarding once–flooded homes from contamination, and mold, to ensuring that families will have heat this winter.

Posted to the web by Billy Wagness