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Editorial: Southeast Wisconsin Should Get FEMA Shoreline Aid

The combined damage estimate for Racine, Kenosha and Milwaukee counties is $30 million. “It’s important to note that any FEMA aid, if approved, would help pay for public infrastructure and not go toward private homeowners.”

by The Journal Times, Racine, Wisc. / February 7, 2020

(TNS) — Inspectors from the Federal Emergency Management Agency were in southeast Wisconsin this week inspecting damage along the shoreline caused by the Jan. 11 storm.

Gov. Tony Evers had asked FEMA to do a preliminary estimate on the cost of repairing damage to public infrastructure. It’s the first step in seeking a federal disaster declaration.

It’s an area-wide concern: The combined damage estimate for Racine, Kenosha and Milwaukee counties is $30 million.

At a time when FEMA is pulled in many directions, our needs merit consideration. It’s important to note that any FEMA aid, if approved, would help pay for public infrastructure and not go toward private homeowners.

The shoreline damage is severe and stunning, even to people who have seen storm damage time and again.

In Kenosha, Jeff Warnock, superintendent of parks for the city, said the storm ripped brick pavers from the lakeside promenade, caused the collapse of shoreline in Southport Park and damaged the beach there.

“It’s the worst I’ve ever seen,” he told the Kenosha News. … “We lost about half of the beach at Southport Park.”

In Racine, John Rooney, Public Works commissioner, estimated damage at $6.4 million, with $4.25 million of it to Pershing Park/boat launch.

“This is something I’ve never seen before, and I’ve been in this community my entire life,” he told the Journal Times.

In Milwaukee County, damage is estimated at $10.7 million to infrastructure.

County officials pledged to work with federal officials, whose visit this week started the process to determine whether our area meets the threshold for federal aid.

“We’re there to work hand-in-hand with locals,” Sandy Jasmund, external affairs officer for FEMA, told the Journal Sentinel. “We’ll be there as long as needed to look at any of the damage they want us to see.”

Early indications from the inspectors’ visit in Kenosha were that local damage estimates met the threshold for aid, said Horace Staples, county emergency management director. Staples said Evers will have 30 days to submit the request for federal aid once all of the estimates are completed.

Given the need locally, we hope our representatives in Washington get on board and lend their support to bringing federal dollars to Southeast Wisconsin.

And it’s clear that we can count on U.S. Rep. Bryan Steil, R-Janesville, who said he is committed to doing his part to help local areas receive federal resources.

“We need to make sure we get a fairer shake on this,” Steil said at one of his recent listening sessions in Somers. “One of our greatest resources is the Great Lakes. It’s something we need to continue to protect.”

We’d like to hear the same strong support from Sens. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, and Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin. Coming off the impeachment trial where they agreed on nothing, this matter so important to our vibrant home should give them an issue to join forces on for their constituents.

Any help they can give is welcome and needed.

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©2020 The Journal Times, Racine, Wisc.

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