Flooding: High water cost county hundreds of thousands of dollars

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Flooding in June dealt more than $900,000 worth of damage to Park County’s road and bridges, county officials say.

At their meeting last week, Park County commissioners officially declared last month’s flooding to be a disaster and declared a “state of emergency.” That was in hopes of getting perhaps as much as 75 percent of the county’s damages covered with federal money.

“It’s significant,” Commission Chairman Lee Livingston said of the potential assistance for the county. “Worth looking at.”

The county’s declaration says that “all locally available public and private resources available to mitigate and alleviate the effects of this disaster have been insufficient to meet the needs of the situation.”

An unusually large amount of melting snow caused damage at more than a half-dozen spots between June 3 and 15. Most of the problems cropped up along the South Fork of the Shoshone River southwest of Cody and along the Greybull and Wood rivers around Meeteetse.

The biggest, most expensive damage occurred at a bridge near Ishawooa Creek Road on the South Fork, where the river ate away the material behind one of the bridge’s abutments and destroyed part of the road. The Greybull River also washed away a huge chunk of earth near a bridge on Road 4EU, southwest of Meeteetse.

Additionally, back in February, a portion of Road 7RP in the Clark area was washed out by rapidly melting snow; Park County Engineer Brian Edwards said he does not know whether that event would be eligible for reimbursement from the federal government.

Any funding would come from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, through the Wyoming Office of Homeland Security.

Edwards’ estimate of $900,000 in damages includes the cost of using county equipment to make repairs, labor put in by county crews, work done by private contractors and planned work to prevent more problems in the future.

“It basically includes everything,” Edwards said of the estimate.

Added Commissioner Tim French, “We have a considerable amount of work after the river’s gone down — roads that have been cut into, resloping them, big boulders in the river, whatever.”

For example, Edwards said the county wants to move some sandbars “to get the river back where it should be” near Road 4EU.

While the disaster declaration was specifically aimed at getting help with the damage to the county’s infrastructure, commissioners said it might also make other government help available to private landowners.

“There’s been a significant amount of that, also,” Edwards said of damage to private property; county officials specifically mentioned damage to ranches on the Lower Greybull River and a property on the North Fork of the Shoshone.

Edwards said the county should find out within a couple weeks whether it will receive any federal help. He said Fremont County and possibly others also are seeking assistance with flood damage.

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