By LOHR McKINSTRY
---- — ELIZABETHTOWN — The start date for a federal disaster declaration has been moved from June 28 to 26, and Essex and Clinton counties have been declared eligible for federal aid from June’s severe storms.
Both counties had been hoping the Federal Emergency Management Agency would add those dates, because significant storm damage occurred just before the first June 28 cutoff.
The first declaration had included 11 other counties.
“It took a long time to get, but we got it (the aid),” Essex County Board of Supervisors Chair Randy Douglas (D-Jay) said Monday. “It was very important to us.”
Broome and Chautauqua counties were also added to the list.
The counties are now eligible for federal assistance that includes debris removal, emergency protective measures and the repair or replacement of damaged public facilities for the period June 26 to July 4.
The aid will be used to supplement state and local efforts to repair the damage done by the flooding caused by storms that dumped heavy rainfall on the North Country.
“That’s good,” Clinton County Emergency Services Director Eric Day said Monday of the declaration. “It’s definitely a good thing. We’re happy.”
Essex County had about $500,000 in damage for that period, while Clinton had about $400,000.
Day said that if the disaster date were to be moved back to June 11, it would add up to another $1 million in damages for his county.
“We had another $800,000 to $1 million on June 11. Some of our towns took a beating over the month of June.”
Among them was Saranac, said Assemblywoman Janet Duprey (R-Peru).
“They had huge damage.”
Douglas and Day both said they’ll lobby FEMA to extend the disaster period to June 11.
Allegany, Chenango, Cortland, Delaware, Herkimer, Madison, Montgomery, Niagara, Oneida, Otsego and Warren counties had previously been declared eligible for federal assistance for the flooding.
U.S. Sens. Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) said Monday that they’re pleased FEMA added Clinton and Essex counties to the disaster declaration for the heavy rain and flooding last month.
“(That) will help them make repairs and rebuild from the storm,” Schumer said in a news release.
“This federal disaster assistance is necessary because it will give reassurance to our communities that the federal government will be there to help as they continue their response efforts and begin to recover from the storm.”
Gillibrand said no one can question the severity of the storm events that occurred.
“We need any available federal assistance to continue the hard work of cleaning up and rebuilding,” she said in the release.
“These federal funds will go a long way to help our communities stand strong.”
Heavy rainfall in June forced hundreds in the affected counties to evacuate from their homes, destroyed large amounts of personal property and rendered critical infrastructure, such as water treatment plants, power stations and canal locks, inoperable or significantly damaged, Gillibrand said.
The reimbursement program is a cost-share program, with the federal government covering at least 75 percent of eligible costs.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo had previously issued a state disaster declaration for all 15 counties.
He requested federal aid after preliminary assessments showed more than $32.7 million in damage to public infrastructure in those areas.
IRENE STILL PRESENT
In the Town of Jay, Douglas said, even as they are dealing with new storm damage, they are still recovering from Tropical Storm Irene, which struck in August 2011.
“Right now, we’re redoing all our sewer facilities for (the hamlet of) AuSable Forks and Black Brook,” he said.
“We’ve been spending, since Irene, all our time on disasters — there are 52 project sheets just for the Town of Jay alone.”
The town borrowed $3 million to do the repairs, with about $2.5 million recovered from government disaster funds so far.
“You have to spend it to get it back.”
— News Editor Suzanne Moore contributed to this report.