State Politics

Snow-related damage from Boise to Weiser still doesn’t qualify for FEMA disaster aid

Digging out Weiser High School

Two dozen volunteer teachers, students and community members shovel snow off the roof of Weiser High School in January 2017.
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Two dozen volunteer teachers, students and community members shovel snow off the roof of Weiser High School in January 2017.

Gov. Butch Otter said Wednesday he is frustrated that the Federal Emergency Management Agency again has denied the state’s request for disaster assistance in five Southwest Idaho counties hit hard by severe winter storms.

“The window is closed for this particular effort to get federal help addressing snow-related destruction and preventing additional damage statewide,” Otter said in a news release “But we have one Presidential Disaster Declaration approved and another pending, so we’re exploring every opportunity to help our communities address their most serious recovery needs.”

In a letter dated Tuesday, FEMA Acting Administrator Robert Fenton rejected an appeal of the agency’s decision to deny Idaho’s bid for federal assistance in Ada, Canyon, Custer, Payette and Washington counties in the wake of snowstorms from Dec. 22 to Jan. 19.

“After a thorough review of all the information contained in your initial request and appeal, we reaffirm our original findings that the impact from this event is not of the severity and magnitude that warrants a major disaster declaration,” Fenton wrote.

“Our disappointment that FEMA has denied our request does not impact the state’s effort,” Brad Richy, deputy chief of the Idaho Office of Emergency Management, said. “We will continue to work closely with the counties affected.

“This appeal was an important continuation of our efforts to work on behalf of the counties, to ensure that every available resource has been pursued fully,” Richy said.

Last week President Donald Trump signed a Presidential Disaster Declaration making federal relief available in response to flooding from Feb. 5 to March 3 in Cassia, Franklin, Gooding, Jefferson, Jerome, Lincoln, Minidoka, Twin Falls and Washington counties. Still pending is a federal disaster declaration for flooding, landslides and avalanches from March 6 through April 3 in Bonner, Boundary, Clearwater, Idaho, Kootenai, Latah, Shoshone and Valley counties.

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