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President Biden approves recovery money for ice storm damage

People in raingear clean up branches on a school campus covered in ice with trees and broken branches.
Brian Richardson
Springfield Public Schools
The Springfield School district declared an emergency because of the January ice storm which caused down trees and power outages throughout the district.

Oregon local governments sustained millions of dollars in damage during the January ice storm. Over the weekend President Joe Biden approved federal funding to cover some of those costs.

The storm covered Western Oregon in a thick layer of ice making travel unsafe. As it thawed, it shattered trees and downed power lines. More than 240,000 utility customers lost power, some for nearly two weeks.

The president approved FEMA assistance for 11 Oregon counties, including Lane, Lincoln, Benton and Multnomah counties. The Confederated Tribes of the Siletz Indians will also receive assistance.

Governor Tina Kotek’s office estimates that local governments sustained at least $48 million in damages statewide.

Lane County Emergency Manager Tiffany Brown said preliminary numbers show the bulk of the damage occurred in Lane County.

“Between the governmental agencies and utilities in Lane County, we've reported and had validated $32 million dollars in damages,” she said. “The way the presidential declaration typically works is that we will be reimbursed 75% of those costs.”

Utilities account for about 86% of Lane County’s total damage estimate so far. Brown said that estimate, as well as the dollar amount the region receives may change as emergency managers and FEMA do one final analysis of the emergency.

Brown said the declaration only applies to losses sustained by governments and utilities, not individual homes or businesses.

"The money in the public assistance program goes to repair the damages that occurred during the storm,” she said. “It also goes to reimburse agencies for debris and removal costs."

Brown said areas identified in the declaration may also be eligible for programs to make them more resilient against future disasters.

Rebecca Hansen-White joined the KLCC News Department in November, 2023. Her journalism career has included stops at Spokane Public Radio, The Spokesman-Review, and The Columbia Basin Herald.
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