Responding to the levee breach that flooded Fernley, U.S. Senators Harry Reid and John Ensign, and Representative Dean Heller of Nevada sent the following letter to President Bush urging swift action to declare the flood a major disaster area.
The President must declare the area a federal emergency before it can become eligible for public assistance to cover the repairs or replacement of infrastructure.
The text of the letter is included below.
January 7, 2008’
The Honorable George W. Bush, President
The White House
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
As you may be aware, the City of Fernley, Nevada experienced a significant damaging flood on Saturday, January 5, due to the catastrophic failure of a Bureau of Reclamation irrigation canal operated by the Truckee-Carson Irrigation District.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Navy (through support from the Fallon Naval Air Station), the Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation, as well as state and local agencies, have already been hard at work to help divert the flood waters and assist more than four thousand residents to evacuate and recover from the disaster.
Their efforts have been complicated by unusually intense rain, snow, high winds and freezing temperatures.
We understand that FEMA's Advanced Emergency Response Team, in conjunction with the State's Division of Emergency Management office, is conducting a preliminary damage assessment today.
Preliminary reports indicate that the flooded area is two square miles, with water levels up to eight feet.
Though some water has been pumped out of the area, some homes still remain under icy water because freezing temperatures are preventing drainage.
As much as a square mile of the town still remains under at least two feet of water.
Local and state emergency response teams rescued scores of people from the tops of cars and homes, and over 300 evacuees are in a Red Cross shelter.
Given this information about the concentrated damage in the Fernley area, we urge you to act swiftly, upon receipt of the Governor's request, to declare the flood a major disaster area and therefore eligible for public assistance to cover the repairs or replacement of infrastructure (roads, bridges, public buildings, etc.) and debris removal and emergency protective measures which cover the additional costs for local public safety groups incurred by their actions in responding to the disaster.
Further, it appears that individual assistance is warranted too, due to the impact on 800 hundred or more homes and businesses.
Thank you for your prompt attention to our concerns.
We urge you to make every effort to ensure that the Federal government remains a good partner in the recovery effort.
Senator Harry Reid
Senator John Ensign
Representative Dean Heller