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Port, FEMA far apart on 2015 storm damage

Agency seeks more federal money
By Edward Stratton

The Daily Astorian

Published on August 2, 2017 10:35AM


Since the storms of December 2015 battered the region’s waterfront, the Port of Astoria has been trying to document how much damage occurred to its property. At stake is up to 75 percent reimbursement for the repairs of proven storm damage from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

And with a $13.7 million difference between FEMA’s initial damage estimates and those created by the Port’s engineers, much more work is needed.

The Port Commission on Tuesday approved a new $65,000 contract to have KPFF Consulting Engineers, the firm contracted last year to assess storm damage, continue work to prove the need for more funding.

Late last month, Port Operations Manager Matt McGrath revealed that while FEMA initially estimated $860,000 worth of repairs needed from the storms, KPFF estimated $2.7 million for the same work and an additional $11.5 million in repairs needed beyond what FEMA estimated, mostly related to damage on the Port’s seawalls, embankments, docks and pilings.

“In order to gain the difference between … less than $1 million to over $13 million is the evidence that KPFF would submit to FEMA,” Port Executive Director Jim Knight said at a Tuesday workshop.

Knight said KPFF will investigate storm reports, photos and other historical information to try and prove the pre-existing condition of the Port’s damaged infrastructure.

KPFF’s work will identify portions of the Port’s infrastructure that need repair to prestorm conditions, and areas of damage applicable for FEMA hazard mitigation grants, which can help fund the repairs to above pre-existing conditions if proven the investment would prevent future damage from storms. Knight said the additional work will take about two months.

Knight said the Port can either accept the $860,000 from FEMA, knowing it won’t make a dent in infrastructure issues, or “continue wrestling with this, utilizing our engineers to demonstrate conclusively to FEMA that it’s in FEMA’s best interest to actually give the number closer to $13 million so that we can do these repairs.”

The state Department of Transportation awarded the Port $1.5 million in ConnectOregon infrastructure grant funding. The Port plans to use the grant as the 25 percent match on the FEMA funds. McGrath said last month that if the Port can get about $6 million in reimbursements from FEMA, it can use the ConnectOregon grant and pay nothing out of pocket.

Paula Negele is a spokeswoman for the state Office of Emergency Management, which distributes the FEMA funds to local agencies. She said the Port has so far received about $63,000 in reimbursement through FEMA.



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