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Swift County seeks emergency status for spring flood damage

A major washout from spring flooding has shut down a mile section on the Kandi-Swift Line Road in Pillsbury Township. Swift County is seeking emergency disaster status to obtain funding to repair township roads. Repairs are estimated at nearly $200,000. Tribune photo by Carolyn Lange

BENSON -- Gravel roads and culverts are washed out in nearly every township in Swift County because of early spring flooding, leading the county to apply for an emergency disaster declaration.

Damage estimates are at nearly $200,000 in 15 townships.

Surveys are being done in the remaining six townships, and damage estimates are expected to increase.

At its meeting Tuesday the Swift County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution to seek a declaration of emergency disaster status to obtain funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, according to Auditor Byron Giese.

Based on the federal formula, Swift County entities, including cities and townships, needed to meet a threshold of $40,000 in damages. It has easily surpassed that based on early estimates of repairs, Giese said.

Swift County hopes to be included in the federal disaster declaration to obtain funds to offset costs that townships will incur to repair roads and culverts.

The county resolution could "kick in the state and federal help" pending the outcome of state reviews and final federal determinations, said Bill McGeary, Swift County emergency management director. "It's not a gimme."

McGeary said some townships have as many as 10 roads that were damaged this spring.

Because of spring restrictions that prevent heavy traffic from using some roads, crews cannot get out to make repairs, Giese said.

"The repairs will have to take place because the roads are not passable and they're pretty dangerous," he said.

Some of the smaller washouts have already been repaired by township supervisors, McGeary said.

"It if was possible to fix, they've been fixed," he said.

Some roads are still underwater or have too much mud and frost yet to fix.

A major washout on the Kandi-Swift Line Road in Swift County's Pillsbury Township has resulted in a mile of that road being shut down. The two large culverts there were not able to handle the spring flow, and the road was sheared off with water running through a new gully.

"We're waiting for the water to go down enough," said Bill Broberg, chairman of Pillsbury Township. "We're going to put in another culvert so there'll be three culverts there."

No one lives on that mile section, but the school bus has been rerouted and emergency personnel have been notified that the road is closed.

The townships do a lot of the labor themselves, but for big projects, "they've just got to call in a contractor to wrestle the culverts in place" and get gravel hauled in, McGeary said.

Townships went through similar road repairs, and disaster declarations, in 1997 and 2001. They did receive some FEMA funding during those times, said McGeary. It's hoped the funding will also be approved this year to help pay for needed repairs.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750