LANSING, Mich. (WZMQ) – Today, Governor Gretchen Whitmer sent a letter to President Biden requesting a Major Disaster Declaration and activation of the public assistance program for Baraga, Gogebic, Iron, Marquette, Houghton, and Ontonagon counties following an assessment of damage to the area. The governor requested the declaration after flooding caused by record snowmelt earlier this spring.
“We are using every tool in our toolbox to support Yoopers as they recover and rebuild from the devastating flooding this spring,” said Governor Whitmer. “A presidential declaration would deliver critical resources to the U.P., and we need all hands on deck to support impacted communities. Tough times call for tough people, and Michiganders will get through this together.”
“Frequent and severe flooding during the spring have overwhelmed communities across the Upper Peninsula and caused millions of dollars’ worth of damage,” said U.S. Senator Gary Peters, Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “I urge the President to grant Governor Whitmer’s request and declare a Major Disaster so that these communities can get the federal resources they need to rebuild and recover.”
“I support Governor Whitmer’s request for a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration for the severe flooding in the Upper Peninsula,” said U.S. Representative Jack Bergman, “and I encourage the Biden Administration to join our all-hands-on-deck response by honoring the request. The flooding and its damage has been catastrophic and widespread – so our recovery and restoration efforts must be equally robust. To properly and promptly address the destruction of infrastructure and property, we must all, at every level of government, be unified.”
“Our local road commissions and emergency coordinators have done an outstanding jobs ince the beginning of this spring’s flooding to catalogue and coordinate the danger and damage,” said State Senator Ed McBroom, (R-Waucedah Township). “Thank you to the Michigan State Police as well for their excellent assistance throughout this time, making it possible for the governor to make this request for federal resources to rebuild.”
“The U.P. is still working to recover from the damage these historic floods brought to our communities, and the support of our federal government will go a long way to getting us back on our feet,” said State Representative Jenn Hill (D-Marquette). “As natural disasters continue ramping up due to climate change, all levels of government should be working together to bolster our infrastructure and protect our neighborhoods from the impacts.”
Snowmelt due to warming temperatures, as well as record precipitation, caused widespread and repeated flooding across the west-central Upper Peninsula from April 10 to May 14. The flooding overwhelmed storm water and sewer systems, burst dams, caused culverts and embankments to fail, and damaged other public infrastructure such as drinking water systems. Roadways and bridges suffered the most severe damage, and many are still impassable.
State, federal, and local officials conducted a joint preliminary damage assessment beginning on May 22. Local jurisdictions estimate over $56 million in immediate response costs and damages to infrastructure and public facilities. Governor Whitmer’s letter requests federal aid from the public assistance program, which helps local governments quickly recover from disaster situations and provides funds to prevent future challenges.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will review Governor Whitmer’s request and make a recommendation to the president. The president will then decide whether to declare a major disaster and grant this federal aid.
Earlier this year, Governor Whitmer declared a state of emergency for impacted counties in the Upper Peninsula, directing state departments and agencies to use all available state resources in cooperation with local response and recovery efforts.
View the full letter to President Biden here.
Note: The original press release did not include Houghton County, but it is included in the Governor’s request. The text has been edited to reflect that.