The Federal Emergency Management Agency denied New York's request to extend a Lake Ontario flooding disaster declaration to Cayuga County, according to state and local officials with knowledge of the decision.
Last week, the White House announced that President Donald Trump approved the major disaster declaration for six counties along Lake Ontario. However, Cayuga and Monroe counties weren't included. U.S. Rep. John Katko's office said the claims for the two counties were still being reviewed.
Niel Rivenburgh, acting director of the Cayuga County Office of Emergency Services, said he was informed late last week that the request to include Cayuga County was denied. The application was rejected because FEMA determined that the county didn't meet its threshold for disaster aid.
Cayuga County's threshold for a federal disaster declaration is $288,894. Rivenburgh and Fair Haven Mayor Jim Basile said the damage exceeded that total. However, Basile explained that there may have been a clerical error which excluded damage to Fair Haven Beach State Park.
Without the state park factored into the total, the damages didn't exceed the threshold for disaster aid.
"If you take the state park's damage and the village of Fair Haven's damage, we're well over the number," Basile said.
A federal disaster declaration would provide aid to state and local governments for emergency response costs, hazard mitigation projects and infrastructure repairs. While the state has a $45 million flood recovery program to help homeowners and municipalities, the additional aid from the federal government is needed.
Fair Haven has calculated the cost of the emergency response and infrastructure repairs, but Basile declined to reveal the figures. He plans to meet with other village officials to discuss how to manage the financial impact.
"If we don't get any money from FEMA we're going to have to look at our general reserve funds," he said.
The situation is frustrating for local officials, especially after a months-long response to record flooding in Fair Haven. Lake Ontario water levels rose to 248.9 feet in the spring, topping the previous high set in 1952.
Rivenburgh said the village of Fair Haven's Department of Public Works, which has four employees, logged many hours responding to the high water levels. The county had employees and resources on the ground. Volunteers from other communities assisted with the response.
"It has put a significant burden on the local municipality," he said.
Cayuga County officials await the conclusion of the appeals process. The state has 30 days to file its appeal. FEMA will then make a final determination.
Kristin Devoe, a spokesperson for the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, said Tuesday that the agency is working with FEMA and local officials to "review damage information to support the county's inclusion in the Lake Ontario disaster declaration."
"The division is confident that after a review of all information, FEMA will have all the necessary data needed to add Cayuga County to the declaration," she said.