Fast flood, slow recovery
“It has come to light that the FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) properties can’t move forward any time soon,” stated Kelly Schroeder to the county board at its regular meeting in Sandstone August 6. Schroeder, the land services director/county assessor of the 2012 flood affected properties in northern Pine County, explained, “The county’s mitigation plan expired on May 27. All the buy-out stuff is ready to go, but the last check box is that we have a mitigation plan approved (by the state and FEMA). We will be lucky to have mitigation approved by September 30.”
The Pine County Sheriff’s Department is the lead county agency in charge of the county’s hazard mitigation plan. Julie Anderson of the Department of Public Safety, Homeland Security and Emergency Management (HSEM) stated, “Mitigation plans are required to be updated every five years, and the one in Pine County expired in May of 2013. The county submitted a draft plan that required substantial revisions. The state required these revisions and we (FEMA) required some revisions.” She went on to explain that the state is awaiting these revisions, and once the state and FEMA reviews the plan and accepts it, the plan will go back to Pine County for the cities to adopt. “Every city in the county must adopt it,” she added.
Denise Baran of the Pine County Sheriff’s Department explained that flash flooding was plan, so the county added flash flooding to the plan in February.
The amendment, Baran continued, “was accepted by HSEM/FEMA before the plan expired in May.”
She went on to state the plan was on the verge of expiration when presented to HSEM in May, and the sheriff’s department is working hard to make the many revisions.
Schroeder reiterated Baran’s comments stating, “The county last adopted the plan in May 2008 and adopted an amendment to the plan on February 5, 2013, to add flash flooding. The plan has to be periodically updated, and the county’s plan needed to be updated by May 27.”
The Pine County Assessor’s Office estimates the buyout of damaged homes and property is $6.5 million.
The vast majority of that funding comes from FEMA for damaged properties in the flood plain, and the remaining part from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for damaged property not in the flood plain. Schroeder recommended the board move forward with DNR funded, or the phase one part, of the buyout process, which is not dependent on the mitigation plan and includes demolition on flood properties.
Closings of the six properties that could be bought through the DNR program have taken place as scheduled, and there are now 33 property purchases by FEMA on hold. The county board approved the recommendation and awarded the bid for demolition and restoration of those DNR purchased properties to Buetow Trucking and Excavating of Moose Lake for $65,313.12.
The county’s FEMA buyout application is on hold until the mitigation plan is approved and goes through the process, added Julie Anderson.