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Southern Lewis flood damage eligible for federal disaster aid

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PORT LEYDEN — Lewis County has been included in a federal disaster declaration, opening Port Leyden and other local municipalities to reimbursement for flash flood damage from May.

“It’s a big boost to the southern end of the county,” Lewis County Emergency Services Director James M. Martin said.

Federal and state officials on Tuesday announced that a disaster declaration has been approved for Lewis County, as well as Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Delaware, Herkimer, Livingston, Ontario, Otsego, Steuben and Yates counties, stemming from storms that caused more than $28 million in damage statewide.

Locally, damage has been estimated in the $1.5 million to $2 million range, with the bulk of costs attributed to a road washout and sewer system damage in the village of Port Leyden.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is to cover 75 percent of repair and recovery costs, and the state sometimes will cover an additional portion, typically 12.5 percent, Mr. Martin said. However, local officials will have to wait for more paperwork to find out what type of state funding, if any, will be forthcoming, he said.

“Until we see the fine print, we’re not sure where it’s going to go,” Mr. Martin said.

Regardless, Tuesday’s announcement should provide a sense of relief to officials from Port Leyden, which already has spent “megabucks” for sewer and street repairs, as well as those from Lewis County and the towns of Leyden and Lyonsdale, he said.

“At least we know we’re going to get a chunk of it back,” Mr. Martin said.

“We are very happy that the FEMA money was approved,” County Manager Liz Swearingin said. “It is obviously a big deal for a town like Port Leyden that saw damages in the $1.3 million to $1.5 million range. This assistance will go a long way toward assisting in the repair and rebuild of core infrastructure.”

Mrs. Swearingin also expressed gratitude “to the all the county and town employees who reacted so quickly over Memorial Day weekend to assist local residents.”

Within the next month or so, Mr. Martin said, he would expect officials from FEMA and the state Emergency Management Office to visit the area, sit down with officials from all affected municipalities and come up with their official cost estimates for each. He said those figures are typically higher than initial estimates developed by the county and other local municipalities.

Since most of the repair work already has been completed, reimbursement may be sought as soon as the official damage estimates are completed, Mr. Martin said.

“By August or September, I would think they could start submitting some bills,” he said.

Ongoing projects, such as repairs to damaged water or sewer lines that can’t be completed this year, also may be covered through disaster aid if they are included in the final estimates, Mr. Martin said.

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