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6 California counties to receive federal disaster relief for flood damage

March 8, 2010 |  3:29 pm

President Obama on Monday declared Los Angeles, Riverside and four other California counties disaster areas, freeing up federal funds to help in the recovery from flood damage sustained during winter storms.

The declaration means the federal government will pay for at least 75% of recovery costs associated with storms and flooding in January and February. That includes repairing roads and bridges and paying for emergency rescue efforts, said officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The winter storms stripped hillsides, destroyed homes and filled streets with mud and debris.

The aid also will pay for up to 75% of costs for certain state and local projects that would reduce the risk of damage or death in the future, officials said.

“It actually has the biggest impact on the local level, because it provides reimbursements for cities who spent a lot of money on cleanup,” said Kelly Huston, assistant secretary of the California Emergency Management Agency.

In a Feb. 1 letter to FEMA, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said the brunt of costs between Jan 17. and Jan. 22 came from debris removal, emergency protective measures and repairs, as well as restoration costs for roads and bridges.

Schwarzenegger also mentioned Southern California reservoirs overburdened and undermined by accumulated sediment and organic material.

“Many debris basins are at maximum capacity, causing an additional threat to life and property,” Schwarzenegger wrote in the letter.

California asked for about $59 million for eight counties, but the federal government approved only six counties, including Calaveras, Imperial, San Bernardino and Siskiyou, Huston said. He could not say how much the state would receive for the six counties.

-- Amina Khan

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