Listen: Congressman Oberstar - fighting for storm relief in DC

MPR’s Sasha Aslanian interviews 8th District Democratic Congressman Jim Oberstar regarding aid for Boundary Waters storm disaster. Oberstar flew over the Boundary Waters to view the damage from blowdown, then returned to Washington D.C. to seek federal aid for the area, meeting with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.


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INTERVIEWEE: FEMA is really focused on this issue. I was quite impressed with their sense of organization having a meeting tomorrow in Grand Rapids, bringing together all the interested parties to begin the three-day push to gather every scrap of data on the costs, such as clearance, cost of clearing of debris from public and private property, emergency measures, repair of buildings, utilities, roads, bridges, recreational facilities.

And the latter is very critical matter for Cook County and the Gunflint Trail discussion I had today with Bruce Kerfoot, speaking on behalf of the Gunflint Trail resort operators. [? Say ?] they have a minimum of a quarter of $1 million cost in clearing out recreational trails. They have clients at the resorts but can't get out on the trails to do what they contracted to come there for, which is hiking and enjoyment of the outdoors.

So those are the kinds of issues that are going to be explored, put together the damage survey report that FEMA then will submit through the state emergency agency to the governor. And I urge the governor to act promptly and submit a request to the president for a disaster declaration so that money can start flowing to, for example, the rural electrification agency in Cook County, which is facing cost of over $5 million to replace utility poles, many of which were-- thousands of which were snapped and just blown out that they can't even find them.

And there's a shortage of poles. You need to bring them in from hundreds of miles away to mount power lines. Otherwise, people are going to be without power for two to four or longer weeks.

INTERVIEWER: Will the money helped them fix the power situation faster? Or is it something that's just going to take time?

INTERVIEWEE: In some cases, the agencies and local entities don't have money to buy the equipment they need, buy the replacement parts that are necessary, or conduct the clearing operations. So the commitment from FEMA to fund those activities will make it possible for, say, the [? REA ?] to get bridge money-- a bridge loan, if you will, to purchase the equipment or assure suppliers that, because of the commitment from fema, they'll have the money to pay their bills. And that will make a big difference in getting quick delivery of, say, utility poles.

INTERVIEWER: So how much money are you asking for?

INTERVIEWEE: We don't have a dollar amount right now. We have some individual assessments. That dollar amount will take a better, sharper image in another three days, when the damage assessment is completed by the FEMA team on the spot in Northeastern Minnesota and with the input from all of the local government, the private sector, the homeowners, the resorters who have all been adversely affected. But I say it's right now a minimum of $20 million. And I think it's going to go much higher than that.


In 2008, Minnesota's voters passed the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment to the Minnesota Constitution: to protect drinking water sources; to protect, enhance, and restore wetlands, prairies, forests, and fish, game, and wildlife habitat; to preserve arts and cultural heritage; to support parks and trails; and to protect, enhance, and restore lakes, rivers, streams, and groundwater.

Efforts to digitize this initial assortment of thousands of historical audio material was made possible through the Minnesota Legacy Amendment’s Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. A wide range of Minnesota subject matter is represented within this collection.

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