Gov. Mike Dunleavy, seen here at an event at the Auke Bay Ferry Terminal in March, on Tuesday issued a state disaster declaration for the Suicide Basin flood that occurred during the weekend. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire File)

Gov. Mike Dunleavy, seen here at an event at the Auke Bay Ferry Terminal in March, on Tuesday issued a state disaster declaration for the Suicide Basin flood that occurred during the weekend. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire File)

Governor issues state disaster declaration for Suicide Basin flood

Decision triggers relief funds for individuals as well as public entities

A state disaster declaration for the record flooding from Suicide Basin that damaged or destroyed dozens of homes was issued by Gov. Mike Dunleavy on Tuesday, who authorized relief for both individual property loss and public infrastructure.

The declaration was made verbally Tuesday morning following the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly, meeting as the Committee of the Whole on Monday night, passed a local emergency declaration that sent the formal request for assistance to the Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, said Jeff Turner, a spokesperson for the governor. The verbal decision is sufficient to officially trigger the availability of such assistance.

There are two types of emergency assistance — individual and public — and Dunleavy’s declaration for Juneau’s flooding includes both, said Jeremy Zidek, a spokesperson for the DHS&EM.

“The individual assistance can provide grants to people for both damages to housing and to personal possessions, and then we can also provide up to 18 months of housing for homeowners and three months for renters with our temporary housing program,” he said.

The public assistance category “covers damage to critical infrastructure,” Zidek said. It can also include reimbursing costs of emergency responses and protective measures related to the disaster.

Two residences were destroyed, one partially destroyed, 15 were condemned as uninhabitable and about two dozen more sustained varying levels of significant damage, according to an assessment by city officials Monday. Damage to public infrastructure included a utility lift station, and property and fenceline loss at the Mendenhall River Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Deputy City Manager Robert Barr said Monday the dollar amount of all assistance needed is unclear, but estimated it is likely in the “multiple millions” and a more specific cost estimate will be shared in the coming weeks.

The timeline and amount of state assistance will be determined as circumstances develop, Zidek said. He said during the initial period, when people forced out of condemned homes are seeking immediate shelter, local resources initially are utilized while the state implements its assistance process.

“Folks like the American Red Cross and Salvation Army that are working with the City and Borough of Juneau to identify those needs,” he said. “Many times it’s a hotel in the short term, and then we look at those intermediate timelines, intermediate housing and long-term housing.”

The state will issue notifications when it activates its individual assistance process, as well as reaching out to entities like the city, tribal organizations and others involved in relief efforts, Zidek said.

The city is also seeking federal emergency assistance, which Zidek said is larger in scale, but also stricter in scope. Federal assistance, for instance, can include low-interest Small Business Administration loans to both homeowners and businesses.

“Their threshold is about twice as much as what our state’s individual assistance program can deliver,” he said. “But there’s a lot more kinds of requirements for it as well. At the state level we’re a little bit more flexible.”

• Contact Mark Sabbatini at mark.sabbatini@juneauempire.com or (907) 957-2306.

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