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County inches closer to getting federal OK to fix August 2013 flood-damaged roads

PULASKI COUNTY, Mo. (Oct. 22, 2015) — After more than two years of frustration and delays following the August 2013 flood which caused an estimated $20 million worth of damage in Pulaski County, county commissioners reported at their Thursday morning meeting that they may finally be getting approval to move ahead with some of the larger county road repair work.

The key problem is differing requirements of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Army Corps of Engineers. FEMA, in general, wants the county to return the roads to the condition they were prior to the August 2013 flood except for extra work with may be required to prevent future repairs which would be more expensive. However, the Corps of Engineers, from which permits must be obtained to do work on streams and rivers, has often denied approval for projects which would meet FEMA specifications, thus requiring expenditure of significantly more money to meet Corps of Engineers rules.

Each project differs, but in general, the commissioners prefer the plans wanted by the Corps of Engineers since they are regarded as more permanent fixes for longstanding problems. Once the Corps denies a FEMA project, FEMA is required to spend the additional money needed to meet Corps specifications.

Portions of more than a dozen roads in Pulaski County damaged by the August 2013 flood have been submitted to the FEMA Federal Emergency Management Agency for work approval. All have been done according to FEMA specs, according to Western District Commissioner Ricky Zweerink, and all of the work orders are in his district.

“This is going to be a bellwether telling us what they’re going to do going forward… this will tell us what the name of the game is,” Zweerink said. “I haven’t found anything that does work yet, but we’re going to try one more time.”

“We’ll see how fast they pay us, or if they don’t,” Sharp said.

Sharp said he also has roads waiting for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) approval in his own eastern district.

“We’ve got one down in Big Piney, but they would say it’s a big project then they’d say it’ll be a small project then they’d say it’ll be a big project all over,” Sharp said.

The difference between “big projects” and “small projects” is important since larger projects require a more complex approval process.

Sharp said he expects his roads will have to go through an appeal process before receiving final approval to begin work.

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