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The governor’s office announced shortly before noon Thursday that President Joe Biden approved a major disaster declaration for severe flooding in the state.

The declaration was formally requested by Lt. Gov. Kristen Juras on Wednesday at Gov. Greg Gianforte’s behest.

Early estimates from the request show that flooding in southern Montana damaged five state-owned bridges, closed more than 200 miles of road and caused roughly $29 million in damage to transportation infrastructure.

The federal aid that comes with the major disaster declaration will supplement state and local resources being used to offset widespread damage caused by flooding, a release from the governor’s office stated.

Gianforte had been out of the country before flooding began, according to his office. The governor’s spokesperson Brooke Stroyke said in an email Thursday morning that Gianforte would be returning to Montana on Thursday evening.

She said that the governor’s office “does not share the governor’s location while he is out of country for security reasons.”

A tweet from the governor’s Twitter account at 12:16 p.m. Thursday thanked Biden and Montana’s congressional delegation for moving the request forward.

“We have secured a presidential major disaster declaration for Montana to help communities respond, recover, and rebuild,” Gianforte tweeted.

Senators Steve Daines and Jon Tester and Rep. Matt Rosendale released a joint statement following the White House’s approval of the declaration.

Approval of the major disaster declaration will activate critical Federal Emergency Management Agency assistance and support recovery efforts, the release stated.

Montana’s congressional delegation hoped to see disaster assistance distributed “swiftly and effectively.”

The White House released a statement from Biden Thursday afternoon on the declaration.

The president’s statement said that federal funding would be available to state, tribal, eligible local governments and certain nonprofit organizations on a “cost-sharing” basis for work, repair or replacement of facilities damaged by the severe storm and flooding in Park, Carbon and Stillwater counties.

Deanne Criswell, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, named Maona N. Ngwira as the federal coordinating officer for the federal operations in the affected area, according to the release.

The FEMA news desk did not immediately return request for comment on whether all of Juras’ requests in the declaration sent to the Biden were approved.

Federal assistance requested by Juras included:

  • Aid from the Environmental Protection Agency to assess damage to public water and wastewater infrastructure
  • Aid from the U.S. Department of Energy in restoring power to communities
  • Aid from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for flood fighting support
  • Aid from the U.S. Department of Transportation for damage assessments on federal roadways
  • Aid from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for damaged health care facilities and evacuation of patients
  • Aid from the U.S. Geological Survey for assistance with data collection and incident impacts.

Deanna Criswell, the administrator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, arrived in Helena Wednesday night. Criswell had a disaster-survey flyover of Red Lodge and a press conference with Juras and Sen. Steve Daines scheduled for Thursday.

A release from the governor’s office Thursday afternoon stated that Gianforte would appear in Gardiner on Friday with Daines, Rosendale and state officials to survey damage and to hold a roundtable on recovery efforts.

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Alex Miller is the county and state government reporter and can be reached at amiller@dailychronicle.com or by phone at 406-582-2648.

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