County gets emergency declaration

ESCANABA – Delta County has been added to Gov. Rick Snyder’s “state of emergency” declaration that was made for Marquette County last month.

On Wednesday, Snyder directed the Michigan State Police to amend the April 17 Marquette County emergency declaration to include Delta County and seven additional counties: Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Chippewa, Emmet, Gogebic, Luce, and Mackinac.

The move was made as this winter’s extremely cold temperatures and deep frost levels continue to cause widespread and severe damage to water and sewer mains in Northern Michigan.

Communities have had to cope with widespread and severe damage and failure of water and sewer systems, fire hydrants and public roads compromising public health and safety due to delayed fire suppression and emergency vehicle response.

“Although spring is here and temperatures are warming up, our Northern Michigan communities are still feeling the effects from this winter’s extreme cold and deep freeze,” Snyder said in a press release. “We are looking at all options to help our communities recover from this winter.”

A governor’s declaration authorizes the Michigan State Police, Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division to coordinate state response and recovery efforts, according to the release.

Delta County and the other seven counties requested a governor’s declaration after determining that local resources “are insufficient to address the situation and state assistance is required to protect public health, safety and property to lessen or avert the threat of a crisis.”

“To me, this means that Delta County has an opportunity now to fill in the void that was created by the water issues, ice issues, river issues – all the issues that came about this winter,” commented Tom Elegeert, chairman of the Delta County Board of Commissioners, this morning. “It’ll give us the opportunity to get back up on our feet again.”

As of 8:30 a.m. today, Delta County Emergency Management Coordinator Bob Berbohm said he had not received official word on Delta County being included in the governor’s declaration.

“It is coming based on what I’m hearing but I have nothing official yet,” he said.

He did, however, speak on what the declaration would mean to the county.

“It opens up resources for all the municipalities,” he said. “If they need something, they can get that from them as far as resources. Then the state picks up the cost of that, but there is a certain dollar limitation on that.”

After a governor’s declaration, the state could request a presidential declaration, which if approved, would open up more financial resources to the counties.

Currently the state is approaching the $13.7 million threshold needed to seek a presidential declaration. Right now, with the impact of this year’s winter reaching into the northern Lower Peninsula, Berbohm estimates the state is likely around the $11 million damage mark.

Delta County’s request for a governor’s “state of emergency declaration” came at the end of last month; at the time Berbohm estimated this winter’s financial impact to be in excess of $300,000 in Delta County.