President OKs federal assistance for 15 counties
President Obama on Tuesday declared a disaster in 15 counties of New Mexico because of floods during September.
Obama’s declaration carries an order that federal money be allocated as a supplement to state and local recovery programs.
Earl Armstrong, of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s regional office in Denton, Texas, said it was too early to know how much money New Mexico counties and pueblos would receive.
He said FEMA would assess damages, then funnel money to the state. In turn, the state would distribute the money to local governments.
Armstrong said the federal share is usually 75 percent.
He said the federal government would reimburse governments, tribal entities, community ditch associations and some nonprofit organizations for debris removal, emergency protective measures and repairs to roads and bridges.
U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., said in a statement that he thanked Obama for a speedy answer to New Mexico’s request for help.
The state’s five-member congressional delegation last week asked the president to authorize assistance for New Mexico.
“I saw the damage firsthand, and I appreciate this quick action to assist the state and Santa Clara Pueblo,” Udall said.
Counties that are eligible for federal assistance under Obama’s order are Catron, Chaves, Cibola, Colfax, Eddy, Guadalupe, Los Alamos, McKinley, Mora, Sandoval, San Miguel, Santa Fe, Sierra, Socorro and Torrance.
State transportation executives said earlier this month that about 290 miles of roads were damaged by flooding, mud slides and debris from Sept. 9-22.
The state said its biggest roadway expense from the storms would be $13 million to rebuild two miles of a state highway in Catron County.
Another $3.07 million is needed to repair two-tenths of a mile of highway in Socorro County, the state Transportation Department said. Legislators have asked that those projected costs be re-checked, saying they sounded excessive.
In a statement, FEMA said additional areas still could be designated for disaster aid if requested by the state and approved after a federal review.