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Girdwood working to get reimbursed for damage caused by rainstorm

Published: Jan. 18, 2022 at 8:28 PM AKST
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GIRDWOOD, Alaska (KTUU) - Nearly 18 inches of rain fell in Girdwood over Halloween weekend last year, causing significant damage to the town and a drain on its finances.

Now, the town is working to recover the money it spent repairing critical infrastructure in the wake of the historic rain event.

“I think there’s some confusion, at various places in government it’s assumed that this is paid for by the whole municipality. This work is paid for by just the residents of Girdwood,” said Mike Edgington, co-chair of the Girdwood Board of Supervisors. “We fund our own road and repairs and repairs and maintenance and drainage. So it’s just paid for by the people within Girdwood. So consequently this is a fairly big hit.”

On Monday night, Girdwood officials met to talk about how they are paying for the repair bills since the storm caused more than $700,000 in repairs so far, with Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson anticipating a total bill of $2.5 million. Ruane Road was completely washed out by the rain event and required significant work to repair.

Edgington explained that a lot of Girdwood’s infrastructure was built 10 to 20 years ago, and in some cases up to 30 years ago. At that time, there was less water coming down the valley into Girdwood, and less flooding.

“We had longer winters and colder winters,” he said. “So as things are changing, basically as the climate is changing it’s becoming a bit warmer and more precipitation — we’re going to see far more occurrences of this type of flooding in the future.”

One thing that will help, though, is that Gov. Mike Dunleavy added Girdwood into an emergency declaration for the state, at the request of Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson.

“We are recognized by the state for having an emergency situation which now opens up reimbursement funding from the state for the expenses that took us to make those repairs,” said Girdwood Service Area Manager Kyle Kelley.

He said those repairs were completed over about two weeks.

“We’re in the phase of what we call recovery of funds, and this will be the more arduous part of the deal where we have to deal with the state, get them everything they need,” Kelley said. “We have a very good set of documents to them already, but we know that they’ll have more questions as we go.”

A problem Girdwood officials did run into is that the community was not included in the emergency declaration request to FEMA at the federal level.

“And that had to do with the fact that we are part of Anchorage,” Kelly said. “And at this point our reimbursement costs are only totaling $433,000 and when you compare that cost against our population, the ratios, or the formula that they use, we would not qualify,” Kelley said.

Kelley went on to say he is looking into seeing, if the federal government does grant emergency funds for the state, whether it can be amended to add Girdwood in.

“They can do a better explanation of how Girdwood is separate from the whole of the municipality as a service area,” Kelley said.

He said the total costs will be around $2 million, possibly up to $2.5 million, after adding in the culvert replacement project at Ruane Road.

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