Prior Lake American:
SHAKOPEE — Scott County has declared a state of emergency in hopes of recouping some of over $620,000 in damage related to recent flooding.
The declaration was passed unanimously and without questions by the board of commissioners after a late addition to the Tuesday, April 2 board meeting agenda. The move allows the county to begin an assessment process with the state that could result in a reimbursement of up to 50 percent of the funds the county put towards emergency response.
Emergency Management and Communications Director Scott Haas said the majority of the damage came from two sources: Jordan and the Minnesota Valley Electrical Cooperative.
The city of Jordan submitted an estimate that ice jams and flooding in Sand Creek created about $120,000 in damages to public infrastructure and costs of emergency actions like relocating residents to emergency shelters.
Flooding along the Minnesota River also downed power lines and submerged transformers for a total of $245,000 in estimated damages for the Minnesota Valley Electric Cooperative.
Haas explained rural electric cooperatives are eligible for state disaster assistance if they’re located in a county that’s in a state of emergency.
“Since the dollars would be forced onto the citizens, it’s similar to an impact to a government or nonprofit, and as a result they do become eligible to join us to request disaster aid,” Haas said.
According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, as of April 2, 52 counties and one tribal nation have been impacted by some form of flooding or ice jams. Besides Scott County, 24 counties have declared a local state of emergency in the state, including neighboring Le Sueur and Sibley.
Scott County’s declaration comes at a kind of “sweet spot” in the emergency response. When the idea of declaring a state of emergency came up two weeks ago — largely in response to the evacuations of Jordan’s Valley Green trailer park — Haas said it was probably still too early to get the most of state aid.
As floodwaters now appear to have crested on the Minnesota River and the situation in Jordan has returned to normal, the county has rounded out its damage estimates and can receive more in state dollars.
“Once we do enter a declaration of a state of emergency, we have a finite amount of time to take some action with the state with some of our reporting that comes up to the state to make sure that we properly qualify for reimbursement,” Haas said. “We’re there now.”
Minnesota has set a per-person rate of $1.89 to establish the threshold for requesting aid from the Disaster Assistance Contingency Account. The threshold for Scott County is $245,564, far below the county’s current estimated damage amount.
The next step the county must take in order to receive state assistance is to request an official damage assessment by the Minnesota Homeland Security and Emergency Management division. If the division decides the damage truly exceeds the threshold, then the county can ask to submit a request to Gov. Tim Walz for funds.
Under state statute, these funds may only be used for responding to damage to public infrastructure, debris removal and emergency protective measures — not for rebuilding damaged roads.
While floodwaters may have receded enough for the county to start the state assistance process, that’s not to say the flooding is over for the area. Haas noted there is still a deep layer of frost present keeping rainwater from absorbing into the ground. Another major rain event could create serious runoff and has the potential to result in additional flash flooding.