President Joe Biden has granted partial approval of Gov. Chris Sununu’s request for a major disaster declaration for storms that hit the Monadnock Region starting July 29.
In a Sept. 20 letter to Biden, Sununu asked for aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Public Assistance Program for Cheshire and Sullivan counties, and a statewide designation of eligibility for Hazard Mitigation Grant Program funding. The storms, which moved across southwestern New Hampshire from July 29 to Aug. 2, resulted in more than $3 million in damage in Cheshire and Sullivan counties verified by FEMA, but the total cost is expected to be “significantly” higher, Sununu wrote.
In a news release Monday afternoon, Sununu said Biden had approved a disaster declaration for the July 29 and 30 storms but not for the storms on Aug. 1 and 2. The latter were primarily responsible for damage affecting the N.H. Department of Transportation and the N.H. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, including to state roads, culverts and bridges, according to the release.
The N.H. Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management plans to appeal the president’s decision on the early August storms, the release says.
The DNCR reported that six bridges had been damaged in the storm, one of which was washed away, according to Sununu’s letter. Three culverts were also damaged, and a collective 3,000 feet of trail was washed out or eroded, he wrote.
The DOT reported that four bridges, 37 state roads and 12 culverts were damaged in the storms. The department reported $152,127 in costs verified by FEMA but estimated the total damage costs to be over $3 million, according to Sununu’s letter.
The damaged infrastructure reported by the DOT and DNCR is state-owned, according to Fallon Reed, chief of the Preparedness, Mitigation and Recovery Section under the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. The division plans to argue that the flooding that occurred Aug. 1 and 2 would not have been as severe if it hadn’t been for the July 29 and 30 storms, and the storms should be considered as tied events, she said Tuesday morning.
In a joint statement issued Monday evening, U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., along with Reps. Annie Kuster and Chris Pappas, noted the importance of including the early August storms in the disaster declaration.
“This relief is a lifeline that will help our local governments restore damaged infrastructure and reimburse state agencies that provided costly assistance on the frontlines of the storms,” the statement reads. “We’ll continue urging the Biden administration to approve New Hampshire’s full request of funding through August, ensuring our municipalities have the resources they need to recover and become more resilient.”
FEMA’s Public Assistance Program provides supplemental financial support to states, municipalities and certain nonprofits on a cost-sharing basis, with the federal share typically being no less than 75 percent, according to Vanessa Palange, spokeswoman for the division.
Once the division has an idea of the total funds to be given from the Public Assistance Program, an additional 15 percent of that sum will go to the state for hazard-mitigation projects, Reed previously told The Sentinel.
Last Thursday, Sununu’s office announced that Biden had approved a disaster declaration for an earlier July storm, which will allow eligible communities in Cheshire County to apply for funds from the Public Assistance Program, as well as eligible towns statewide to apply for funds from the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program.
The state will contact communities to set up briefings for the storms that started July 17 and July 29, according to the release.