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8 counties to get disaster aid

U.S. funds to target infrastructure and hazard mitigation

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Eight Utah counties and one Indian reservation hit hard by floods and landslides earlier this year can receive federal aid, the White House said Monday.

President Bush declared that a major disaster existed in the areas and ordered federal monies to supplement state and local recovery efforts, the White House said.

Funds will go to eight counties — Beaver, Box Elder, Iron, Kane, Sevier, Tooele, Uintah and Wasatch — and the Uintah-Ouray Indian Reservation for damages sustained from April 28 to June 29.

The state also sought aid for four additional counties — Cache, Davis, Utah and Weber — but the request was denied, said Tammy Kikuchi, spokeswoman for Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. "Apparently they didn't meet the threshold," she said.

"I think that we included any of the counties that had sustained any damage. Then it's up to the (Federal Emergency Management Agency) assess- ment team to determine if they qualify. We put in the request, but it's really them from there," Kikuchi said.

FEMA public information officer Gerry DeFelice said damage in the four counties did not meet the required $2.84 per capita threshold.

If county officials feel the decision was made in error, DeFelice said they could pursue an appeal through FEMA.

"If there are additional determinations that are made, they could come back to FEMA and say, 'We want you to have another look at this,' " he said.

It would be up to the individual counties to make that decision, said Derek Jensen, spokesman for the Utah Department of Public Safety. Jensen was unaware Monday if any county planned to go that route.

Additionally, Kikuchi said she did not know if the governor would be asking for state help for the four counties.

DeFelice did not immediately know the cost of the estimated damage in the eight qualifying counties. Washington County, which had received about $66 million in federal assistance earlier this year in the wake of severe flooding, was not on the list submitted by the governor. "Their flooding issues had already been addressed," she said.

A FEMA logistics team will arrive this week to establish a FEMA/State Joint Field Office. The Utah Department of Public Safety will work closely with FEMA and local officials to bring disaster relief for public infrastructure in the impacted counties.

FEMA covers seventy-five percent of the eligible costs to repair public infrastructure. The declaration also provides hazard mitigation assistance, which allows the state to take actions to prevent or reduce long term risk to life and property from future natural hazards.

E-mail: awelling@desnews.com; lisa@desnews.com