Recently installed rock fill safeguards homes along the Mendenhall River where record flooding caused extensive damage in early August, including washing away part of a home where the riverbank remains unprotected. Residents along the riverbank are expressing concerns about the costs of the protection, as well as anyone not able or willing to have such fill installed because the gaps will leave the area vulnerable to future floods. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire File)

Recently installed rock fill safeguards homes along the Mendenhall River where record flooding caused extensive damage in early August, including washing away part of a home where the riverbank remains unprotected. Residents along the riverbank are expressing concerns about the costs of the protection, as well as anyone not able or willing to have such fill installed because the gaps will leave the area vulnerable to future floods. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire File)

FEMA disaster aid denied for residents, infrastructure affected by Suicide Basin flooding

Deadline to apply for state disaster aid is Oct. 9

Federal disaster aid for people affected by the record flooding of Suicide Basin in early August is being denied, according to a notice published Wednesday by the Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

“SEOC was notified through FEMA Region X that the request for a presidential declaration (for private residences and public infrastructure) for the Suicide Basin Glacial Flood event was denied,” the notice states. “SEOC Disaster Assistance staff will continue to implement state disaster assistance programs to support the survivors as well as the City and Borough of Juneau.”

The release of water from the ice dam above the Mendenhall Glacier on Aug. 5 destroyed or damaged dozens of homes, with many of the latter still condemned as uninhabitable. Extensive repair efforts have been made to some residences, including placing many tons of rock fill along the bank of the severely eroded Mendenhall River to prevent further damage, but much of the cost is being borne by residents who said they were hoping for eventual reimbursement via federal and other disaster aid.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy declared the flooding a state disaster on Aug. 8 and requested an assessment from Federal Emergency Management Agency officials, which took place a couple of weeks later.

Inquiries by the Empire to regional FEMA officials about the denial of disaster relief for Juneau did not receive a response Wednesday.

State disaster relief for individuals is limited to $20,500 for housing assistance, plus $20,500 for other needs such as “essential personal items, transportation, medical, dental, funeral expenses,” according to Jeremy Zidek, a spokesperson for the state emergency management division. Housing assistance is offered to homeowners for up to 18 months and to renters for up to three months.

“We see people max out the housing assistance grant more frequently than we see people max out the other needs assistance (ONA),” he stated in an email Wednesday. “Items that fall under essential and critical eligibility under the ONA program can make it difficult to reach the max threshold.”

According to City and Borough of Juneau Finance Director Angie Flick, the city will be initially requesting about $150,000 from the state for reimbursement following the emergency repairs of public property and debris removal paid for by the city. She said there will be additional expenses as well for some larger repairs that will need further design and contracting work.

Both the state and FEMA provide such assistance for public infrastructure, as well as for individual property owners, for declared disasters. However, the federal government does so on a much larger scale, such as the millions of dollars provided last year for Typhoon Merbok in western Alaska and flooding elsewhere in Alaska earlier this year.

However, FEMA is also currently delaying $2.8 billion in approved disaster aid, including more than $25 million for Alaska, to ensure the agency has crisis funds in the event of a possible federal government shutdown at the end of the month.

Registration for individual state disaster assistance for those affected by the Suicide Basin flood is continuing, with a deadline of Oct. 9. Applicants can register by phone at (844) 445-7131 or online at https://ready.alaska.gov/Recovery/IA.

• Contact Mark Sabbatini at mark.sabbatini@juneauempire.com or (907) 957-2306. Contact reporter Clarise Larson at clarise.larson@juneauempire.com or (651) 528-1807.

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