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FEMA Sets Up Response Teams in St. George

FEMA Sets Up Response Teams in St. George

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ST. GEORGE, Utah (AP) -- Response teams have temporarily moved to southern Utah as they evaluate how federal dollars will be used in the flood-stricken area.

President Bush declared Washington and Kane counties a federal disaster area this week, freeing up federal money to help repair damage to public infrastructure caused by last month's floodwaters.

The declaration excluded Iron County, which, according to an estimate provided by the governor's office, sustained $11,800 in damage to roads and bridges.

Jim Chesnutt, spokesman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said that assessment didn't reach the threshold to qualify the county for federal assistance.

Also this week, Gov. Jon Huntsman signed the flood relief bill that loans $25 million to southern Utah communities ravaged by floods.

The state's loan will fund repairs to roads, bridges, water systems and other infrastructure, but will not help individuals who suffered individual losses.

While homeowners are disappointed that individual assistance will not be provided through FEMA, Chesnutt said federal assistance is the exception not the rule, and the disaster declaration will provide a meaningful contribution to help pay for infrastructure damage.

An additional $6 million is also available from the state's revolving loan fund for water systems, sewers and irrigation systems. That amount could increase to $15 million, but damage assessments are still incomplete.

The U.S. Department Agriculture this week also announced a $6 million award through the Emergency Watershed Protection Program to repair watershed damage from the flooding. The award is not related to the FEMA efforts.

Chesnutt said 75 percent of repair costs for public infrastructure will be covered by federal aid, with city and county governments picking up the rest. There is no cap on the dollars available through federal aid.

Early estimates from Washington County placed the damage at roughly $160 million with another $100 million possibly needed for river reclamation efforts.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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