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Whitmer asks Biden for disaster declaration in western U.P. because of floods

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer
A state of emergency related to the flooding was initially declared in April. (Bridge photo by Jonathan Oosting)
  • Spring flooding in Upper Peninsula caused upwards of $56 million in damage
  • Whitmer seeks federal major disaster declaration and accompanying assistance for affected counties
  • Damage included burst dams, overwhelmed water and sewer systems and impassable roads and bridges

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has asked President Joe Biden to issue a major disaster declaration for several counties in the Upper Peninsula, citing flooding damage caused by record snowmelt this spring. 

Whitmer on Friday sent a letter to the president and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) seeking a disaster declaration and other public assistance for Baraga, Gogebic, Houghton, Iron, Marquette, and Ontonagon counties following a damage assessment in the region.


Heavy rainfall coupled with melting snow resulted in widespread flooding across the western Upper Peninsula between April 10 and May 14, causing upwards of $56 million in emergency response and damage to infrastructure and other public facilities, according to Whitmer’s office.


That damage included burst dams, overwhelmed stormwater and sewer systems, compromised drinking water systems and impassable roads and bridges. A state of emergency for impacted counties has been in effect since to assist in response and recovery efforts, but state and local governments can’t cover the cost to fix it alone, Whitmer wrote in her request.

The incident “is of such severity and magnitude that effective recovery is beyond the capabilities of the state of Michigan and the affected local governments and that supplemental federal relief assistance is necessary,” Whitmer wrote. 

Democratic and Republican officials representing the Upper Peninsula offered support of Whitmer’s request Friday. 


“I encourage the Biden administration to join our all-hands-on-deck response by honoring the request,” U.S. Rep. Jack Bergman, R-Watersmeet, said in a statement. “The flooding and its damage has been catastrophic and widespread — so our recovery and restoration efforts must be equally robust.” 

State Rep. Jenn Hill, D-Marquette, said all levels of government should work towards bolstering infrastructure and protecting neighborhoods “as natural disasters continue ramping up due to climate change.” 

The request will be considered by FEMA, which will review it and make a recommendation to the president on whether to declare a major disaster and offer federal aid. 

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