Governor Daugaard’s request for a presidential disaster declaration to help local communities recover from record flooding has exposed Congresswoman Kristi Noem’s shortsighted budget cuts to flood prevention and management.
“While counties faced expected record flooding, Congresswoman Noem voted to eliminate flood prevention programs and slash flood response systems throughout South Dakota,” noted Ben Nesselhuf, Chairman of the South Dakota Democratic Party. “Now that expected flooding has struck, we hope President Obama will approve Governor Daugaard’s request to provide the flood disaster assistance that Noem wanted to eliminate.
Supporting the GOP’s Continuing Budget Resolution (HR 1) in March, Noem voted in line with Republican leaders in Washington to completely eliminate the Watershed and Flood Prevention and Operations program and slash nearly $800 million from Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funding for state and local governments. Instead of defending her vote, Noem joined Senators Johnson and Thune in urging President Obama to preemptively declare a federal emergency.
Nesselhuf questioned how Noem could vote to eliminate the same kind of support that she urged the President to provide. “Behind each shortsighted cut to policies like flood prevention, are real families now hoping for emergency assistance in light of Noem’s flood-related budget cuts,” Nesselhuf said.
The watershed programs, administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, provide flood mitigation resources for state and local governments and tribes. FEMA provides state and local governments across South Dakota with disaster mitigation, preparedness, response, recovery, education, and reference resources.
Governor Daugaard’s disaster declaration request covers 28 counties from Hughes to Roberts. 75% of eligible infrastructure costs would be reimbursed if the President grants the disaster declaration.
Noem’s vote to gut flood prevention and response funds for states and local governments puts unfunded mandates on state and local governments, requiring the governor to request emergency assistance, Nesselhuf explained. “Hypocrisy will neither ease our budget deficits nor protect our communities. South Dakota deserves real leadership – not political double-speak.”
Presidential Disaster Declaration
“Gov. Dennis Daugaard has asked for a presidential disaster declaration to help South Dakotans recover from widespread spring flooding. The request covers 28 counties where preliminary assessments show more than $7.1 million in damage to roads, culverts, bridges and other public infrastructure. The governor in his letter to President Barack Obama says soil in many parts of the state already was saturated before getting hit with winter snowfall ranging from 50 to 100 inches.” [Keloland.com, 3/10/11]
Noem Eliminates Flood Prevention and Response Programs
The GOP House Budget H.R. 1 Eliminates the Watershed and Flood Prevention and Operations Program. March 1, 2011 [H.R. 662, Vote #159, 3/02/11]
FEMA funding for state and local governments reduced by $783 million. [US House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations, 2.11.2011]
“Through the Watershed Programs NRCS provides technical and financial assistance to States, local governments and Tribes (project sponsors) to plan and implement authorized watershed project plans for the purpose of … watershed protection, flood mitigation, …” [Natural Resources Conservation Service]
S.D. Flood Support Sought From Obama
“A presidential disaster declaration is needed to help nearly half of South Dakota’s counties deal with expected spring flooding, and the state’s congressional delegation has made a plea to President Barack Obama, lawmakers said Wednesday. Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson, along with Republicans Sen. John Thune and Rep. Kristi Noem, sent a letter urging Obama to support Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s request for an emergency flood declaration.” [Press & Dakotan, 3.17.11]