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State Denies Payment For Portland Flood Damages

Ice jams, Grand River, Portland
WLNS-TV Lansing (WKAR media partner)
Ice jams along the Grand River in Portland in February 2019.

Portland city officials are asking Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's administration to clarify or reconsider its decision to deny aid to communities hurt by severe flooding early in the year.

Ice jams in the Grand River caused severe flooding in February that closed three bridges, restricted travel and forced some residents to evacuate their homes.

Portland, Veterans Bridge, Grand River
Credit Reginald Hardwick / WKAR-MSU
City of Portland

Portland City Manager Tutt Gorman told the Lansing State Journal that the flooding caused about $200,000 worth of damage to public facilities. Insurance covered roughly half of the damages.

The state earlier this month denied Ionia County's request for $105,000 to cover flood damage, saying the local communities can cover its own losses. Portland's damages account for about $100,000 of that sum.

"Although the county and local jurisdictions incurred expenses in responding to and recovering from these events, the local commitment did not place unreasonably great demands on the county or clearly demonstrate exhaustion of local efforts," Emmitt McGowan, the state's deputy emergency management director, said in a letter to the county.

Portland, Grand River
Credit Reginald Hardwick / WKAR-MSU
City of Portland

Gorman said it's not clear what officials mean by "exhaustion of local resources" and that he would like them to clarify their reasoning. He added that if the state's same logic was applied when a tornado struck the community in 2015, Portland probably would have been denied assistance then. The tornado caused $3.3 million worth of damage.

"This is just the backside, most of the important issues are behind us now," Gorman noted. "In terms of life and property, we're in good shape."

A spokeswoman for Whitmer referred questions to the Michigan State Police Emergency Management and Homeland Security division, which could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday.

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