State asks Obama to overturn FEMA denial of local disaster aid
New York is appealing last month's decision by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to deny disaster assistance to five counties, including Genesee.
The state's formal appeal asks President Obama to overturn FEMA's denial and provide aid to Genesee, Columbia, Delaware, Rensselaer and Sullivan counties for damages suffered from storms that occurred from July 25 through Aug.16.
Damage, debris and response costs in the five counties exceed $7 million, according to a press release from Tim Yaeger, coordinator of Genesee County Emergency Services.
“The...counties are reeling from this summer’s flooding and storms, which have caused severe damage and hardship,” Gov. Paterson said. “The repetitive nature of these events has strained local governments’ ability to implement the recovery process and placed a severe fiscal burden upon the state and its local communities.”
FEMA maintains that Genesee and the four other counties sustained infrastructure damage that was "not of the severity and magnitude" to warrant a separate disaster declaration (from a storm system that hit Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Chenago, Cortland and Erie counties).
But the state argues that New York had the wettest summer in 138 years and the third wettest in recorded history. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration reported rainfall greater than 200 percent above normal for July.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture calculated soil-moisture content in excess of 500 percent above normal range in the five counties named in the appeal. This super-saturation of the soil resulted in "immediate significant rises in creeks and streams for even minor rainfall amounts."
“A failure to provide this desperately needed support to some of our most impoverished counties will leave them vulnerable to increased damage from even moderate future flooding events," Patterson said.
Corfu's damage assessment was found to be $246 per capita for Genesee County. That's well in excess of the per-capita threshold for aid established by federal law and cited in FEMA’s own preliminary damage assessment.
Damage and debris/response costs for all 10 counties affected by the summer storms is estimated at more than $60 million.