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FEMA approves disaster declaration for July derecho

By Brandi Makuski

A disaster declaration for Portage Co. has been approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The declaration means the county will be eligible for federal funding to help cover cleanup costs following the July 20 derecho that devastated many parts of the area with 80-mile-an-hour winds and heavy rain. The storm knocked down thousands of trees and left many of the county’s residents without power for almost a week.

Gov. Tony Evers requested the federal declaration last week for 17 Wisconsin counties and two tribal areas. The counties named in the declaration are Barron, Clark, Forest, La Crosse, Langlade, Menominee, Monroe, Oconto, Oneida, Outagamie, Polk, Portage, Rusk, Shawano, Vernon, Waupaca, and Wood. The Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin and the St. Croix Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin were also included.

Marinette Co. was included in the governor’s request letter but is still under review by FEMA.

According to Bob Weinert, emergency management director for Portage Co., county leaders declared the entire county a disaster following the storm. Individually, the towns of Amherst, Dewey, Plover, Stockton, and the Village of Plover also declared their municipalities as disaster areas, requesting funding to offset cleanup costs from Wisconsin Emergency Management.

Local governments can now apply for federal funding to communities to recover some of the costs incurred through emergency protective measures, repairing infrastructure, and removing debris, according to a news release from Evers’ office.

“We will work closely with FEMA to help the impacted tribes and counties listed in the declaration receive federal disaster assistance as quickly as possible,” said Maj. Gen. Don Dunbar, adjutant general and Wisconsin’s Homeland Security Advisor.

The disaster declaration covers eligible projects submitted by counties, cities, townships, and certain private, not-for-profit organizations, the news release said. The program is not for businesses or homeowners as the level of damage in these areas, unfortunately, does not currently meet requirements for federal relief.

Under the program, FEMA provides 75 percent of eligible costs, while state and local agencies share the remaining 25 percent. Local governments wishing to apply for federal assistance should contact Weinert’s office at (715) 346-1437.

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