Walz, Franken Meet with Local Officials to Talk Aid

Created: 06/20/2014 10:32 PM
By: Hannah Tran

Senator Al Franken and Congressman Tim Walz spent their entire day assessing widespread flood damage that has overwhelmed much of Minnesota.

On Friday afternoon, they made a stop, among many, in Albert Lea to provide their response from a federal standpoint to potentially ask for help from FEMA

"We're going to reach that 7 million dollar threshold, that will be done," said Congressman Tim Walz.

Rain has pounded upon Minnesota in record proportions. Congressman Walz and Senator Franken confidently told Albert Lea officials that they believe the statewide damage will easily surpass 7 million dollars in damage.

"While this one may not have massive numbers, there's certainly hundreds of thousands of cropland under water and it has covered a larger geographical area," said Congressman Walz when he reflected upon past periods of heavy flooding in certain pockets of Minnesota.

Walz says the degree of damage is not the only issue, rather, it is also the stretch of area in Minnesota that has been hit similarly by the record-setting rain, which makes this situation unique.

If statewide damages cost 7.3 million dollars or more, Minnesota will secure federal funds to help fix the recent rain's impact that is so geographically expansive, as well as expensive, including for Albert Lea.

"Right now, with city losses, we're estimating around $100,000 to $200,000 dollars," said Mayor of Albert Lea Vern Rasmussen.

Rasmussen is among many elected officials in Minnesota that met with Congressman Walz and Senator Franken on Friday to highlight the most costly losses in their community from this week's rainfall. This is part of a preliminary assessment before any federal funds are possibly given.

"The biggest thing for me in Albert Lea is main street. It's really an important road for our community, so upgrading that road so that we don't have any further issue would really be a benefit for us," said Rasmussen.

Officials say Governor Dayton's Declaration of Emergency for 35 counties will take around seven to ten days to process. Whether Minnesota receives federal aid or not, Albert Lea officials stressed that a solution must have a heavier emphasis on long-term upgrades.

But Walz brought up a point that encapsulated the concerns of many Albert Lea officials.

"The reimbursement is going to put it back to the way it was before, so that they can happen again, then reimburse that to bring it back to how it was before," said Congressman Walz.

That's exactly what they don't want. In their own words, Albert Lea leaders said they want to "repair, restore, and fortify," so that this doesn't happen over, and over, again.

"We need to make sure that the infrastructure projects go to where they're most needed," said Senator Al Franken

If the threshold is reached, federal officials will provide 75 percent in flood damage support and the state will match around 25 percent.

Again, damage costs and possible federal aid is only associated with public infrastructure.

Photo: ABC 6 News