Pribilof Islands will receive federal disaster aid for December storm

The White House and Federal Emergency Management  on Wednesday announced the Pribilof Islands will be receiving federal disaster aid.

The funding is intended to help repair widespread damage on St. Paul and St. George Islands from a severe winter storm that blasted across the state in mid-December.

President Obama signed a major disaster declaration for the state, ordering federal aid be made available to Pribilof local government and tribal agencies on a “cost-sharing basis.”

A White House press release announcing the Alaska Disaster Declaration also says some federal funding is now available for “hazard mitigation measures statewide.”

Connie Newman is the superintendent of the Pribilof School District. This morning she described some of the damage from the storm that swept across the North Pacific and Bering Sea starting on Dec. 13, 2015.

“For the community of St. Paul, we had terrific flooding. The Bering Sea breached the seawall on the east side of the island. We were in jeopardy of losing our electricity; there was a problem with the septic line because it was flooding our septic line,” Newman said. “We had to dig out and have the flooded area go out the beach so they really worked hard to try to drain this flood in front of the school.”

In the wake of the storm, Pribilof officials sent a local disaster declaration to the state.

Jeremy Zidek, spokesman for the Alaska’s Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, said his office then worked with the Pribilof community to document the storm’s damage and put together a disaster package for the governor to sign off.

“And in that disaster declaration, he requested federal disaster assistance,” Zidek said. “So public assistance has been activated and public assistance is designed to help communities recover from a disaster for damages to their critical infrastructure like a seawall.”

Zidek says the money can also be used to cover emergency response costs and replace buildings, roads and utilities.

“Now that there is a federal disaster declaration we will look at all the eligible damages from the storm and there will be sufficient funding to help a community recover to a pre-disaster condition,” he said.

President Obama’s signature on disaster declaration paves the way for the state and federal governments to share recovery costs.

Zidek says in the cost-sharing agreement between the two entities, the state picks up 25 percent of the costs and the federal government covers the remaining 75 percent.