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Pawlenty sets special session for Oct. 18 to address flood relief

Saint Paul - Governor Tim Pawlenty announced today that a Special Session of the legislature will convene on October 18, 2010 at 1:00 p.m. in order to address the state's share of flood relief now that a federal disaster has been declared for 21 counties that were affected by flooding that began on September 22.

The federal declaration included FEMA's Public Assistance Grant Program for debris removal, and the repair or replacement of disaster-damaged, publicly owned facilities. It also includes federal Hazard Mitigation Grants.

However, the presidential declaration does not include Individual Assistance. FEMA is continuing its evaluation and may add assistance for individuals after they complete their review. FEMA's Individuals and Households Program (IHP) helps homeowners and renters affected by a disaster with housing needs and necessary expenses.

"We thank the federal government for providing assistance that will help Minnesota communities in their rebuilding efforts, and we look forward to their decision on help for individuals who were affected by flooding last month," Governor Pawlenty said. "While we're hopeful that the decision on individual assistance will be made soon, the state will not delay in its response."

Public assistance was granted for Blue Earth, Cottonwood, Dodge, Faribault, Freeborn, Goodhue, Jackson, Lincoln, Lyon, Martin, Mower, Murray, Olmsted, Pipestone, Rice, Rock, Steele, Wabasha, Waseca, Watonwan, and Winona Counties.

The preliminary damage estimate was $64.1 million, though that figure will increase as more counties are added to the federal declaration and the damage assessment process continues.

During the Special Session, a bill will be presented that includes the state's share of assistance for the counties affected by flooding last month. The legislation will also include assistance for areas of the state that were designated a federal disaster area in July as a result of tornados and severe storms that caused more than $35 million in damage.

The bill is paid for with $32.5 million from the General Fund, $26.7 million in General Obligation Bonds, $10 million from the state transportation fund, and $5 million from the Trunk Highway fund.

The flood relief provisions of the bill include:

· $15 million for damaged state highway infrastructure and local roads and bridges.

· $14 million to the Department of Natural Resources for flood hazard mitigation grants, clean-up of public waterways, and repair of river gauges, and the repair or relocation of the Oronoco dam.

· $12 million for the non-federal cost share. Under the terms of a disaster declaration, the federal government covers 75 percent of eligible costs and the state covers the remaining non-federal share.

· $10 million for the Minnesota Investment Fund, administered by the Department of Employment and Economic Development, to provide locally administered grants or loan programs to eligible organizations, including businesses, directly affected by the disaster. To increase accountability, DEED is required to report to the legislature before making any grants.

· $10 million for the Reinvest in Minnesota program to acquire easements from landowners on marginal lands in the disaster area to protect soil and water quality and to support fish and wildlife habitat.

· $4 million for the Quick Start program administered by Minnesota Housing. Quick Start helps homeowners who are unable to repair or rebuild their homes due to flood damage expenses that exceed private insurance and federal assistance. The program provides forgivable, no-interest loans for home repair, new construction or a comparable replacement home, mobile homes, or single-family rental repair.

· $4 million to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture for livestock investment grants, organic certification assistance, forage production loss offsets for livestock producers, and no-interest disaster recovery loans.

· $3 million to help communities with erosion and sediment control.

· $523,000 for school districts that lost per-pupil funding or incurred increased transportation costs.

· $500,000 for the Public Finance Authority. The PFA makes low-interest loans and grants available to finance infrastructure that might otherwise be unaffordable to communities if they had to borrow money for the projects at market rates.

· $250,000 for clean-up of historical buildings.

Provisions of the bill pertaining to areas declared a federal disaster (FEMA-1921-DR) in July include:

· $5.2 million for the non-federal cost share for eligible expenses from the July storms. Counties named in that federal declaration are Blue Earth, Brown, Houston, Kittson, Nicollet, Sibley, Faribault, Freeborn, Olmsted, Otter Tail, Polk, Steele and Wadena.

· $750,000 to update Wadena's existing pre-design and design plans for public facilities.

· $693,000 for school districts that incurred uninsured losses to buildings and equipment.


Governor Pawlenty declared a State of Emergency on September 23 as heavy rains -- more than 10 inches in less than 24 hours in some communities -- fell on saturated ground and caused flooding across the southern third of Minnesota. A total of 17 counties and 30 cities declared local emergencies.

On September 24, the Governor requested joint federal-state preliminary damage assessments be conducted.

In his letter to President Obama on October 1, Governor Pawlenty pointed to preliminary damage estimates that indicate 609 dwellings were affected across the region. Hundreds of federal, state, county, city, and township roads and highways were damaged, including the city of Oronoco that experienced a washout on both ends of a major bridge to the city. Other public infrastructure damage includes wastewater treatment plants, community centers, city buildings, state and local parks, schools, and athletic fields.