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Obama signs disaster declaration for December storm damage in Pribilof Islands

  • Author: Erica Martinson
  • Updated: May 31, 2016
  • Published February 17, 2016

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama on Wednesday signed a disaster declaration for Alaska making nearly $2 million in federal funds available to help with recovery from a dramatic December storm in the Bering Sea.

Though the storm hit a wide-ranging area, the declaration was limited to losses in St. George, a village with fewer than 100 people on the southernmost of the Pribilof Islands.

The Dec. 12-15 storm was one of the most intense ever recorded in the Bering Sea, marked by hurricane-force winds and waves that topped 50 feet.

In St. George, the storm dislodged armor rock on the seawall, according to the request submitted to the White House by Alaska Gov. Bill Walker.

There are concerns that dislodged rock "on the seafloor of the harbor could restrict use of St. George as a safe harbor for the commercial crab fishing fleet in severe storms and high seas," according to Walker's Jan. 29 letter to the president.

On Jan. 26, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the state conducted an assessment that estimated repair costs at $2.42 million. That figure could go up or down, said Jeremy Zidek, a spokesman with the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

A federal disaster declaration signed by the president is necessary to unlock federal funding for state and local governments and some nonprofit organizations for repair and replacement of facilities damaged in the storm, according to the White House.

The state is responsible for 25 percent of the total, and the federal government will cover the remainder.

The storm caused substantial damage to private property elsewhere in the region. The most severe damage was to seawalls in St. George and in Togiak on the mainland, though other communities reported damage to docks, power lines, public buildings and boardwalks, according to the state.

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