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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- President Bush has declared flood-ravaged Washington County a federal disaster area, Gov. Jon Huntsman's office said Tuesday.
The state has been awaiting the designation, which is needed to begin the process of sending federal aid to the area. The Federal Emergency Management Agency will work with state and county officials Wednesday to set up a joint field office in the county, said FEMA spokesman Jim Chesnutt.
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.
Chesnutt said federal aid will be available to "eligible public facilities." Facilities covered by insurance or facilities that are the primary responsibility of another federal agency won't be covered.
"The Federal Highway Administration will be responsible for some of the relief efforts," Chesnutt said.
President Bush's declaration comes a day after Utah lawmakers rushed through an appropriations bill that made a $25 million relief loan immediately available to Washington County.
Also on Monday, Huntsman signed agricultural disaster declarations for both Iron and Washington counties, setting in motion a request for funds from the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. The federal Farm Service Agency estimates southern Utah farms suffered about $5 million in flood damage.
The $25 million approved by the Legislature can only be used for repairs to infrastructure, including sewer and water systems, roads and bridges, as well as river reclamation work.
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.
(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)