FEMA disaster declaration to help Unicoi County in flood recovery

Sue Guinn Legg • May 14, 2020 at 5:47 PM

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee on Wednesday announced Unicoi County has been included in a FEMA disaster declaration that will make federal assistance available for the repair of roads and bridges damaged by widespread flooding on April 13.

Eight other Tennessee counties, including Washington County, were previously included in the Major Disaster Declaration for Tennessee issued on April 24.

Local governments and private nonprofit organizations in the declared counties may apply for reimbursement of specific disaster-related costs including debris removal, protective measures and the rebuilding of roads, bridges and other infrastructure damaged by April 13 storms.

Unicoi County Mayor Garland “Bubba” Evely said the county is very happy to be included in the declaration and the eligibility for reimbursement for major road repairs and to equipment needed to complete the repairs.”

“While we appreciated the assistance, it still does not include assistance for individual property owners,” Evely said. “We will continue to look for other sources of help for the property owners.”

Sen. Rusty Crowe, R-Johnson City, who toured multiple sites in the county where the floods washed out roadways and cut off mountainous communities, expressed his appreciation for the work of Lee and other local officials to secure this disaster aid.

“I will continue to work with community, state and federal leaders to ensure Unicoi County receives the resources it needs to recover,” Crowe said.

Evely said County Road Superintendent Terry Haynes and EMA Director Ed Hernden, who led the tour with Crowe and U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-1st, were instrumental in the county qualifying for the federal aid.

After three major floods in just over a year, the officials are also working with the Army Corps of Engineers on a survey of streams in the county’s Sandy Bottom, Temple Hill, Spivey Mountain, Tilson Mountain and other areas where flooding has recurred.

Haynes has recommended the crops dredge the problem creek beds as was done here following a severe flooding in the 1970s.

Evely said while about two private property owners in the county suffered damage to their homes and property in the April 13 flooding, the number did not meet the threshold needed to qualify the county for funding individual assistance available through the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency.

Preliminary estimates put the cost of repairing roads and bridges damage caused by the April 13 flooding at about $450,000.

Evely said the Temple Hill area in particular is a “phenomenal problem” for the county.

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