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Idaho County still pursuing funding for last winter’s emergency repairs

'it’s slow, but we’re still in the game and they haven’t eliminated us on anything yet'

Idaho County Courthouse

Photo by David Rauzi
Idaho County Courthouse

— When Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter delivered his final “State of the State” address Monday, Jan. 8, he mentioned that one set of disasters – “one of the worst hurricane seasons on record,” he said – took federal disaster managers away from the mountain of road work last winter left behind across Idaho.

Locally, Idaho County still has not received firm word about whether FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) will be able to send money for projects to address last winter’s damage, which the Free Press first reported Sept. 12.


Jerry Zumalt

Two of the projects were completed before winter set in, with local taxpayers set to cover about $23,400 out of a $234,000 repair on Cedar Creek Road, east of Kooskia, and about $12,000-$15,000 out of a six-figure repair on Maxwell Lane, north of Elk City – if the federal money comes through.

That’s according to county disaster management coordinator Jerry Zumalt, who told the Free Press some of the paperwork the federal agency requires is still awaiting FEMA’s sign-off.

“I’ve had good luck with the guy in Moscow who came back [from the hurricane relief efforts] and has been pushing paperwork through to the region,” Zumalt said. “He doesn’t control everything, but our engineering estimates are now finally being accepted for analysis…it’s slow, but we’re still in the game and they haven’t eliminated us on anything yet.”

If approved, the federal taxpayer, through FEMA, will shoulder 75 percent of project costs, with the state taxpayer picking up 15 percent and the county taxpayer covering 10 percent. Of the nine FEMA grants Zumalt began pursuing last fall, seven haven’t yet seen work. The seven are: one on Big Cedar Road, one in Cottonwood Creek (the match for which would split with work already done on Maxwell Lane), two on Lukes Gulch, one on Cove Road, one on Ft. Misery Road and one on Adams Grade that may ultimately have to address problems with the hillside.

Zumalt is also pursuing other funding for culvert repairs on Glenwood Road and Village 21, respectively, through the FHWA (Federal Highway Administration) and the state’s own emergency relief fund – a $52 million act of the legislature Otter touted during his Jan. 8 speech.

“We had some snags with disaster assessment teams being called away for one of the worst hurricane seasons on record,” Otter told the state legislature, “but we are getting relief out as quickly as possible, and we’re working with cities, counties and highway districts to minimize the impact of delays in federal disaster funding.”

Meanwhile, the current winter’s wrath is already being felt, as – for the second year in a row – county road crews had late nights and considerable overtime during the holidays. Late last month, new erosion in the Tommy Taha area kept the road department crew out overnight Dec. 28-29, as fresh material came down from parts wildfires burned near Kamiah in 2015.

“We were up there cleaning the ditches and getting the vac in and opening up some culverts,” county road and bridge department supervisor Gene Meinen said. “The guys had quite a few hours in during that two-week period, all connected, and a break has been needed and appreciated.”


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