Gov. Walz promises help for southeast Minnesota flood recovery

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NEAR BYRON, Minn. (KTTC) – Governor Tim Walz got a first-hand look at flood damage in Olmsted County after heavy rain washed away roads, flooded homes, and turned parks into rivers.

“It’s pretty catastrophic for a relatively geographically small area of the state but the damage as you can see is pretty dramatic,” said Walz.

After meeting with local officials in Mantorville, Governor Walz made a stop at Oxbow Park to survey the damage. More than 300 volunteers have been cleaning up the picnic area this week.  At the campground, water levels reached 5 and a half feet, destroying all of the above-ground electrical outlets.

RELATED: COMMUNITY PITCHES-IN TO CLEAN FLOODING AFTERMATH AT OXBOW PARK

The governor applauded local first responders, government agencies, and volunteers on their efforts to keep people safe. “The main measure of this is we had no loss of life or no injuries, as you saw here, this was a serious situation,” he said.

And now a serious cleanup in full force. Damage to public infrastructure in Dodge County from the first round of flooding stands at $831,000. Damage from the second round is still being tallied.

What happens when you have a catastrophic event like this, it doesn’t reach the FEMA level, but it overwhelms the local officials. They created a disaster assistance contingency account that was meant to go into effect when situations like this happen.”

Walz says the state has a $20 million Disaster Assistance Contingency Account that could alleviate some of the financial strain caused by the damage when the severity of the impact does not meet thresholds for federal disaster assistance.

“Road, bridges, culverts, parks, the costs of some of those rescue operations, all those things are eligible under our disaster assistance programs,” said Joe Kelly, director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

For homeowners, the federal Small Business Administration has low-interest loans to help pay for repairs. If residents do not qualify for that, they may be able to tap into the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency which can provide no-interest loans.

“Even though some of the houses weren’t destroyed, or washed away, there’s a couple of dozen that are pretty much uninhabitable and will take significant dollars to fix,” said Kasson Mayor Chris McKern.

In Kasson, at least 170 homes reported damage either from flooding or sewage backup, but officials suspect damage to more homes is unreported.

RELATED: KASSON RESIDENTS BLAME CITY FOR SEWER BACKUP, SEEK ANSWERS FROM MAYOR

“If we bring this area back they will continue to contribute back to the state. We’re better together when we have that resiliency,” said Walz.

Dodge County is hoping for both federal and state disaster aid money, but there’s no guarantee right now either will come through. Walz says now is the time to be proactive and work on flooding mitigation projects, noting efforts across the state in previous years are paying off.

President Donald Trump recently approved a major disaster declaration for spring storms and flooding that caused nearly $40 million in damage to infrastructure across Minnesota. $6 million of that could go towards mitigation projects across the state to prevent and reduce the severity of flooding, according to HSEM director Kelly.

Linda Ha

Linda Ha

Reporter | @LindaHaTV | lha@kttc.com

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