By Joyce M. Miles
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — The City of Lockport will get disaster aid after President Obama signed off on a federal disaster declaration for New York State on Friday evening.
Niagara County is included on the list of 15 New York counties affected by flash flooding late last month. Approximately five inches of rain fell over Lockport in only a few hours on June 28 and overwhelmed the city's combined sanitary-stormwater sewer system. The city incurred an estimated $1.2 million in storm response spending and property damages, including washed-out streets and the breakdown of a grit collector at the wastewater treatment plant.
With the disaster declaration, the city will be able to receive reimbursement of qualified expenses from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The declaration was in doubt earlier this week as state Emergency Management officials scrounged to come up with at least $26 million in qualified losses in the counties for which Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an emergency declaration. FEMA wouldn't accept the state into its disaster recovery program for any less loss than that.
An aide to U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, called Mayor Michael Tucker late Friday to inform him of the federal declaration. Still up in the air, according to the aide, is whether homeowners will be eligible for Individual Assistance, that is, reimbursement of expenses and property losses they incurred because of the storm.
FEMA officials previously indicated that damage in basements would not be aidable because basements are not considered primary living space. About 600 property owners across the city requested pumpouts on the day of the storm as basements were flooded with stormwater and/or sewage, anywhere from a few inches to several feet.
The aide told Tucker that Schumer's office is still lobbying FEMA to loosen its restrictions on Individual Assistance. An answer is expected in about 10 days, according to Tucker.
"Hopefully we'll hear some more good news," he said.