The state is declaring Niagara County a disaster zone due to flash flooding last week. That opens the doors for the City of Lockport, and possibly private property owners, to recover an estimated $7.2 million in financial losses from the federal government.
At a hastily arranged press conference Tuesday morning at flood-ravaged Widewaters Drive-In, Lt. Governor Robert Duffy announced Gov. Andrew Cuomo approved the addition of Niagara to the list of counties being made eligible for disaster aid in the wake of record rain events across the state.
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., whose office arranged the press conference, pledged to press the Federal Emergency Management Agency to free up aid to residential and commercial property owners who suffered material losses in the June 28 flooding.
"I'm going to suggest to FEMA that they get here quickly, assess the damages and get the federal dollars rolling in" to Lockport, Schumer said. Regarding aid for private property owners and FEMA's reported reluctance to view basements as a part of primary structures, he added, "We're going to try to get them to be as flexible as possible. ... There's been a positive change (in FEMA's position) since Hurricane Sandy."
Officials have advanced a citywide damages estimate of $7.2 million, including $6 million in private property losses and $1.2 million in municipal emergency response costs and public property losses. The estimate will change, and likely increase, as storm damage becomes more apparent, Mayor Michael Tucker said.
Among the costliest blows for the city is the damage done at the wastewater treatment plant, where two key pieces of equipment, a grit collector and a water clarifying tank, broke down during the storm.