Lewis & Clark County identifies $700K in public property damage from June flooding

Posted at 6:47 PM, Jul 26, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-26 20:48:22-04

HELENA – Lewis and Clark County leaders have outlined some of the costs of last month’s serious flooding in the Augusta area.

The county estimates the June flooding caused about $709,000 in damage to public infrastructure, especially roads and bridges. Leaders say 11 county roads were left impassable immediately after the flood.

Disaster and emergency coordinator Reese Martin said the most extensive damage was on Elk Creek Road, where several bridges were damaged. In one location, the creek channel moved about 40 feet, so the county will need to double the length of a bridge span.

County commissioner Susan Good Geise said public works crews have already made many of the repairs.

“People couldn’t wait, people couldn’t get to their properties,” she said.

But Geise said the costs have been beyond what the county can handle from its regular budget.

“This was truly extraordinary,” she said.

Commissioners voted Thursday to put an emergency two-mill tax levy on property owners in unincorporated areas of the county. That levy will raise about $130,000 for addressing flooding impacts.

The owner of a $100,000 home will have to pay about $2.70 more a year because of the emergency levy. It will cost about $5.40 more a year for the owner of a $200,000 home.

Leaders say the levy was a necessary first step before the county could ask for additional assistance from the state of Montana.

“In order for state aid to be granted to us, the county needs to demonstrate that it has gone to its own taxpayers to pick up some of the expenses, as much as they can,” Geise said. “This is Lewis and Clark County’s skin in the game.”

Commissioners are asking the state for almost $580,000 in additional help.

The money from the emergency levy and any state aid will only go toward public infrastructure needs, but the county also highlighted damage to private property, to demonstrate the severity of the flooding. Martin said they have identified at least 20 businesses and 531 residences that received extensive damage.

Geise, who lives in Augusta, said she has heard of dozens of farms and ranches that were severely affected by the floods. In many cases, she said, they have lost fencing, irrigation systems and interior bridges.

“Those numbers will make the residences and the businesses pale in comparison,” she said.

Geise said the county needs to talk to agricultural producers to get a fuller picture of the damage they’ve suffered.

“People in Augusta, and particularly those ag guys, they are very independent, they are very resilient, they’re not whiners, they don’t like to complain,” she said. “So they have either not been notified that it would be helpful to the county for them to report those losses, or perhaps are even resistant to it. But we need to do more.”