SHERIDAN — Though Sheridan County sustained significant damage from last May flooding, local officials say the county is not eligible for federal assistance.
Sheridan County Emergency Management Coordinator Bruce Edwards said Sheridan County issued a declaration during the flooding that qualified it to receive assistance from state agencies with supplies to protect the county from flood damage, sandbags in particular.
“The county issued an emergency declaration which basically is the trigger point, or the formal mechanism, that allows the state to supply state assets and resources to assist local jurisdictions,” Edwards said.
An emergency declaration is different from a disaster declaration, however, which would have qualified Sheridan County for federal financial assistance.
“When you have a disaster declaration, essentially you’re telling the feds that both the locals and the state have exceeded their resource capabilities and they’re requesting assistance from the federal government,” Edwards said.
After the flooding subsided, inspectors from the Wyoming Department of Homeland Security office surveyed the flood damage in Sheridan County and determined there had not been enough “catastrophic damage to uninsured public infrastructure” to warrant a formal disaster declaration.
Counties only qualify for disaster funding if they sustain at least $1 million in damage to uninsured public infrastructure, and Edwards said Sheridan County was well short of that threshold.
Last month’s flooding was a rare instance in which a rain storm parked itself over Sheridan County for nearly a week, and did not move beyond the county’s borders.
“There were other parts of the state receiving rain, but I did not hear about anyone else getting any kind of flooding — it was all specific to Sheridan County,” Edwards said. “So that puts a fairly large burden on the entities in Sheridan County to meet (the disaster declaration) prerequisites.”
Sheridan County Engineer Ken Mueller said when the county received disaster relief funding in 2011, it was part of a relief package given to the state due to widespread damage across Wyoming.
Mueller said the county has spent about $100,000 on flood repairs so far and estimated it would have to spend $50,000 more in repairs, mostly to county roads.
Mueller said the county can manage those repairs on its own and will not interrupt any of the major capital improvements the County planned this summer. He added the county is still in the process of determining whether it will have to delay some of its smaller projects.
City of Sheridan Engineer Hanns Mercer said the damage the city sustained was also manageable. The bulk of the damage was incurred by two city levees, underneath pathways in South Park and where Little Goose Creek crosses underneath Coffeen Avenue.
“The more severe damage, where we had to do some remedy work, was in South Park,” Mercer said.
The city hired a contractor to reinforce the South Park levee — by building a levee behind the damaged levee — which cost $30,400, Mercer said. Though Sheridan is not eligible to receive federal disaster relief funding, Mercer said the city has applied for assistance from the Army Corps of Engineers, which could offer financial assistance for the city’s flood repairs.
Mercer said ACE has begun reviewing Sheridan’s application, but the review is still ongoing.