By SUE RYAN
News staff writer
January 6, 2007
The year turned over Sunday and with it came a welcome start to 2007 for Hood River County.
Emergency Management Officer Karl Tesch received word Dec. 31 that the state’s application for disaster relief had received presidential approval.
“What it means is the government is probably paying for most of the costs,” he said.
He referred to the Nov. 5-8 flood damages; which affected four counties in Oregon including Hood River, Lincoln, Tillamook, and Clatsop.
The state’s Emergency Management Office had listed the total amount of assessed damages at $6 million for all four counties. Before any money arrives though, the applicants face a round of paperwork and bureaucracy. The first step will be for Tesch to meet with County Administrator Dave Meriwether and Economic Development Coordinator Bill Fashing. That meeting is set for next week.
Following it, OEM will bring federal coordinators to Hood River within the next few weeks to explain the next level of report requirements. Those involve each entity submitting much more detailed requests than the initial reports.
“The briefing will be to get the paperwork started and to set up each one with a project manager,” said Abby Kershaw, director of OEM’s financial and recovery section.
The storm affected 14 sites within Hood River County. The Mt. Hood Railroad, which reported more than $1 million in damages, will not receive any relief.
“The private sector is not covered,” Tesch said.
Among the sites affected by the damages were both Farmers and Middle Fork irrigation districts, Ice Fountain Water District, Red Hill Road Bridge, Toll Bridge Road, and Highway 35.
One question remains gray. That is whether or not the Port of Hood River damages will be considered. Initially Kershaw had said the port would not be covered due to legal definitions. Those outline that any damaged infrastructure such as the Hood River channel that is the responsibility of another agency can not be considered for damage assessment by the state. In the Port’s case, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for dredging costs.
The damages at the port involve shoaling and sand that has filled in at the cruise ship dock. The state said that made the damages ineligible as it was the responsibility of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Tesch disagreed.
“The port is covered,” he said.
Jon Gornick, Corps dredging engineer, said Thursday that nothing was happening on the Corps part.
“At this point, it’s in the port’s hands,” he said.
Kershaw stated Thursday that the issue was one that had to be resolved between the Corps and port.
“The port? It’s not for sure,” she said.
Kershaw explained that FEMA would examine the situation once they arrived to figure out the port’s eligibility.
Michael McElwee, executive director for the Port, said they are working closely with the Corps on the access channel issue.
“There are limited, if any economic damages to port facilities except for that channel,” he said.
He said the port has just begun the evaluation of the situation, which may take up to a year to complete.
“Until we do that, it’s unclear what would be the most prudent options to pursue,” he said.