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Ravalli County road department administrator John Horat works to clear a culvert on Eight Mile Road east of Florence in an effort to keep flood waters moving toward the Bitterroot River in early March.

HELENA – Teams from the Federal Emergency Management Agency will be arriving in Montana on Sunday to begin assessing damage statewide from flooding in early March.

The preliminary damage teams will be looking at only public infrastructure, said Ed Tinsley, the division administrator for the Montana Disaster and Emergency Services.

State DES staff will accompany the teams as they meet with county, city and tribal officials to gauge the damage. Tinsley did not have the tribal damage estimate immediately available, but said initial, rough figures from the four cities and 15 counties indicated some $2.5 million in damage.

The FEMA staff is scheduled to return to its Denver office by Friday and begin to compile the information and determine which of these jurisdictions has enough damage to qualify for FEMA assistance.

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Tinsley said he wasn’t sure how long the federal agency would need to make its determinations.

The damage that meets FEMA’s “indicator levels” would then allow Tinsley to report this to Gov. Steve Bullock, who could then request a presidential disaster declaration.

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If granted by the president, FEMA would send in teams to prepare worksheets on the repairs that would detail what portion of repairs for which it would pay. Counties must spend the emergency funds available from their budgets for repairs to be eligible for FEMA assistance.

The process bringing FEMA to Montana would be repeated if there were flood damage later this year as mountain snowpack melts.

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