Lawmakers seek disaster aid for 6 Oregon counties

WASHINGTON – Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and Reps. Peter DeFazio and Greg Walden on Tuesday sought federal disaster assistance for spring storms that hit Curry, Douglas, Grant, Linn, Umatilla and Wheeler counties over a two-week stretch in April.

The bipartisan letter from the Oregon lawmakers to the White House comes in support of Gov. Kate Brown’s request for a presidential major disaster declaration for those counties’ losses from heavy rain, snowmelt, flooding, landslides and mudslides between April 6 and 21.

“Heavy, and in some areas unprecedented, rainfall occurred over the state of Oregon during this period,” the lawmakers wrote. “These persistent and heavy rains combined with snowmelt runoff from winter storms in February 2019 set the stage for flooding, landslides and mudslides that closed major highways, carried debris onto roadways, and damaged bridges and other public infrastructure.”

The lawmakers noted that that eligible damages in the six counties qualifying for public assistance total more than $8.2 million, a particular challenge for smaller rural communities.  In Wheeler County, public damage levels added up to more than $700 per person.

A federal disaster declaration allows local governments, homeowners and businesses to be eligible for loans, insurance relief and other assistance.

A copy of the letter is here.