The Working Waterfront

Mills seeks disaster declaration

Federal aid would help with January storms

Posted 2024-03-11
Last Modified 2024-03-11

Gov. Janet Mills has formally requested that President Joe Biden issue a major disaster declaration to help Maine’s eight coastal counties recover from the back-to-back severe storms on Jan. 10 and Jan. 13 which brought significant flooding and damage.

In a letter to Biden, Mills noted the cost of damage from the two weather events—estimated at $70.3 million for public infrastructure damage alone—is beyond the ability of the state to address.

If the president approves the governor’s request, Maine would gain access to federal funds it could use to repair damaged roads, bridges, public buildings, utilities, and other public infrastructure in Washington, Hancock, Waldo, Knox, Lincoln, Sagadahoc, Cumberland, and York counties.

In addition to requesting public assistance, the governor asked Biden to authorize individual assistance to eligible families impacted by property damage in Washington, Hancock, Waldo, Knox, Lincoln, Sagadahoc, Cumberland, and York counties.

“Given that affected homeowners are also having to recover from demolition of the waterfront infrastructure that inherently supports their livelihood, the Individual Assistance program is just one necessary component to the comprehensive recovery needs of disaster survivors spanning all eight coastal counties,” wrote Mills in her request. “With much of the marine and aquaculture field operating out of primary homes with private docks, hundreds of disaster survivors are now fighting to sustain generational family businesses with limited support.”

Maine produces 90% of the nation’s lobster, she noted, “and is home to a thriving marine economy now at risk of decline. The recovery of Maine’s coastline will require the support of every federal resource available, and due to the compounded affects sustained by the coastal primary homeowners that help to sustain Maine’s economy, recovery is uncertain without the Individual Assistance program.”

The governor has also separately proposed $50 million to help communities rebuild infrastructure and enhance climate resiliency by introducing it as standalone legislation rather than as part of the forthcoming supplemental budget. It’s complemented by $5 million in her supplemental budget to help another 100 cities, towns, and tribal governments create local plans to address vulnerabilities to extreme weather through the Community Resilience Partnership.