Federal disaster declared for 2 Wyoming counties after June flooding damaged homes, businesses

IndustriesAssociated Press

Homes and businesses damaged by flooding in Niobrara and Johnson counties can seek federal aid thanks to a federal disaster declaration.

President Barack Obama on Tuesday approved a federal disaster declaration requested by Gov. Matt Mead, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

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In a statement, Mead thanked Obama and said he would continue to do whatever is necessary to help people recover from the flooding that occurred between May 24 and June 6.

Kelly Ruiz, spokeswoman for the state Office of Homeland Security, said the declaration makes various assistance programs available to homeowners and business owners who need help recovering from the flood.

"Individuals, homeowners, can get some federal grant dollars if they qualify," Ruiz said Wednesday.

For instance, homeowners can get low-interest loans to help rebuild a destroyed home or replace personal property lost in the flood.

Flooding from heavy rain in Niobrara and Johnson counties destroyed 14 homes, caused major damage to 50 others and minor damage to 95 others, Ruiz said.

Twelve businesses sustained major damage and 48 had minor damage, she said.

Most of the damage occurred June 4 in Niobrara County, where the Niobrara River flooded into downtown Lusk and knocked down a bridge on U.S. 85 on the north side of town.

Ruiz said she has yet to see a damage estimate for the homes and businesses. The estimated damage to roads, bridges and other public infrastructure is more than $1 million, she said.

The state submitted a separate federal disaster declaration request to help cover the cost of repairing roads and bridges in Niobrara, Johnson, Albany and Platte counties.

"The public assistance one is still under review," Ruiz said.

Replacing the collapsed bridge at Lusk will likely be the single most expensive project. A temporary bridge is being erected until a permanent one can be built.

Wyoming Department of Transportation spokesman Bruce Burrows said there was no firm estimate on how much it will cost to replace the bridge, but he estimated it will be a multi-million dollar project.