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Iowa appeals FEMA denial of REC disaster funding

Published: Thursday, Dec. 26, 2013 10:03 a.m. CDT

DES MOINES (MCT) – Iowa officials are appealing a decision by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to deny funding to four rural electric cooperatives in northwest Iowa in the aftermath of an ice storm that struck the state earlier this year.

Gov. Terry Branstad said Tuesday that the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management is asking FEMA officials to reconsider the funding denial for the RECs following an April storm that caused millions of dollars in damage to electrical utility lines in Dickinson, Lyon, O’Brien, Osceola and Sioux counties – prompting a presidential disaster declaration to be issued May 6.

FEMA officials originally denied funding to restore the downed utility lines in the amount of $19 million on Aug. 30, saying the denial was because the utilities did not conduct “comprehensive laboratory testing.”

State officials filed the appeal in conjunction with Iowa Lakes Electric Cooperative, Lyon Rural Electric Cooperative, Osceola Electric Cooperative, and Sanborn Electric and Telecommunications Utility. FEMA officials have 90 days from the date they receive the appeal to make an evaluation and issue a determination.

“We hope FEMA will come to a fair and just decision regarding this REC appeal,” Branstad said in a statement. “This funding is important for the recovery of Iowa communities. Denying such assistance could result in a financial burden for the customers of these cooperatives.”

The appeal was applauded by REC officials who called the decision by FEMA to deny federal disaster aid in the wake of devastating storms in northwest Iowa an “unprecedented” move that could jeopardize millions of dollars in previously awarded assistance.

“The Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management Department’s formal appeal is a major step in resolving FEMA’s unprecedented denial of disaster assistance. We appreciate the support that the state of Iowa and our members of Congress continue to provide throughout this process,” said Marion Denger, president of the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives.

REC officials said the comprehensive laboratory testing on every mile of wire on an annual basis that FEMA cited in denying the application is not performed as a matter of industry practice or required to meet any industry or engineering standard. Denger said it is also not required by the Iowa Utilities Board, which regulates Iowa’s electric utilities and required them to submit reliability plans and inspection and maintenance plans.

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©2013 The Gazette (Cedar Rapids, Iowa)

Visit The Gazette (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) at thegazette.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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