President Donald Trump approved South Dakota’s request for a Presidential Disaster Declaration, Governor Kristi Noem announced on Saturday.
“This is great news for our state as it means that those still recovering from the severe weather will get much needed assistance,” Noem said in a news release on Saturday, June 8. “We thank the President for his actions.”
It means up to an estimated $46 million in federal funds — based on preliminary assessments — will be available to help state and local governments and private citizens and businesses recover from property damage during the winter/spring blizzards in mid-March and mid-April and the ensuing flooding.
The state made the formal request on May 22 and Trump signed the declaration late on Friday, June 7, according to Noem.
Representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency will return to work with state and local officials to document damage, mostly to public infrastructures such as roads, and also to a lesser amount of damage to private properties.
The preliminary assessments done in May indicated about $43 million to public infrastructures in 58 counties, including more than $100,000 in Hughes County, much of it in and around Blunt; and on three Indian reservations.
About $3 million in damages to private property and in individual assistance was tabulated in 12 counties and three Indian reservations.
Rob Fines, emergency manager for Hughes and Stanley counties, said that at least about $64,000 of disaster damage had to be found in Hughes County in order to trigger eligibility for disaster funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, based on the county’s population. The preliminary assessment done by local and FEMA representatives estimated more than $100,000 of damage was done, Fines said.
Much of it was in and around Blunt, where the community filled sandbags and built an earthen dam along the east edge of town as rising waters threatened to flood homes and streets. Damage to county roads also went in to the assessment total in Hughes County.
Not enough damage was totaled up in Stanley County, so far, to lead to FEMA funds.
Public property damage assistance has been approved for the counties of: Aurora, Beadle, Bennett, Bon Homme, Brookings, Brown, Brule, Buffalo, Campbell, Charles Mix, Clark, Clay, Codington, Davison, Day, Deuel, Dewey, Douglas, Edmunds, Fall River, Faulk, Grant, Gregory, Hamlin, Hand, Hanson, Hughes, Hutchinson, Hyde, Jackson, Jerauld, Jones, Kingsbury, Lake, Lincoln, Lyman, Marshall, McCook, McPherson, Mellette, Miner, Minnehaha, Moody, Oglala Lakota, Pennington, Perkins, Potter, Roberts, Sanborn, Spink, Sully, Todd, Tripp, Turner, Union, Walworth, Yankton, and Ziebach, as well as the Cheyenne River, Lake Traverse, and Rosebud Indian Reservations.
Individual assistance has been approved for the counties of Bennett, Bon Homme, Charles Mix, Dewey, Hutchinson, Jackson, Mellette, Minnehaha, Oglala Lakota, Todd, Yankton, and Ziebach counties as well as the Cheyenne River, Pine Ridge, and Rosebud Indian Reservations.
Individual assistance requests for Brookings, Kingsbury, Hamlin, and Turner counties were not approved because more information is needed, Noem said. Assistance to those counties may be approved later, she said.
In her letter requesting a disaster declaration, Noem said the severe weather this spring affected all parts of the state.
“People had to be rescued from their flooded homes, highways and roads were damaged, city infrastructure systems were overwhelmed by the high water, and the state’s agricultural industry was impacted,” according to the news release.
“South Dakotans, as they always so, have helped each other recover from the winter storms and flooding,” Noem said. “But this federal assistance is the extra boost individuals, businesses, and governments need to recover from this disaster.”
South Dakota last received a presidential disaster declaration for individual assistance based on the billions of dollars in damage from flooding along the Missouri River flooding in 2011, including in Pierre and Fort Pierre. That disaster also involved a lot of public assistance funding from FEMA that took years to be spent. The city of Pierre just finished the final FEMA-funded flood-related recovery work last year.
The last presidential disaster declaration for public assistance in the state was granted in early 2017 in the first months of the Trump administration when Gov. Dennis Daugaard requested it following the big ice storm around Christmas 2016 that did an estimated $9 million in damage, including to a lot of damage in Stanley County to power lines and poles.