Updated: June 29, 2018 06:25 PM
INO, Wis. - "Good Lord," Senator Tammy Baldwin remarked as she glimpsed the major washout on Hwy 2 that has shut the road down for nearly two weeks.
Before heading to the site with other state and local officials, Baldwin said, "Sadly, this is deja vu."
Similar areas were hit hard with flooding in 2016. Baldwin said then, the U.S. Department of Transportation was able to offer some emergency funding fairly quickly. She said although she doesn't know if Gov. Scott Walker will ask President Trump for an emergency declaration, she has already begun to reach out to top officials.
"We have communicated also with the President, just saying that we will fully support an emergency declaration if the governor makes one and asks the President to do the same," Baldwin told attendees of Friday's bus tour.
While they made their way to the washout, Bayfield County Emergency Management Coordinator Jan Victorson told Baldwin her area has an estimated $3 million in damages, but that number does not count major damage to roads that they haven't even been able to assess yet.
Douglas County Emergency Management Director Keith Kesler said his estimate is $5.2 million, and going up every day. He said many residents have damage to personal property.
Iron County reported about $750,000, and Ashland County said its last estimate was $202,000.
National Forest Service representatives also spoke with Baldwin. District Ranger Mike Martin said that 65 miles of Forest Service road are heavily impacted and closed, and he estimated it will cost $4.3 million. He said they can petition for Emergency Relief for Federally Owned Roads, or ERFO, funds.
Baldwin's staff said Friday afternoon that the Federal Highway Administration awarded the Wisconsin DOT $1 million in "quick release emergency relief funding."
As far as other federal funds, the senator said she is not sure exactly what will be available. Some of it would be contingent on whether Gov. Walker seeks an emergency declaration.
"It matters whether the losses are public losses or private losses. But when you look at a construction site like we're in front of right now, these are obviously some very serious public losses," Baldwin said, referencing the Hwy 2 washout.
Plus, they're an "artery" for tourists to access northwest Wisconsin activities.
Mary Motiff with Bayfield County Tourism said she expects some businesses in the central part of the county may be affected, but they are still encouraging people to come.
"Just take a little extra time to do some planning, look ahead at the route," Motiff said, "and then check in with some of the businesses that you might be going to see if there's any special plans that you need to make."
She said there were some trip cancellations right after the storm, especially by people who were coming to ride ATVs.
"With the amount of ATV trails that we have in the county, we had to just close everything until they could get out and assess the conditions," Motiff said.
But she said now, storm damage should have a minimal impact on tourism.
Updated: June 29, 2018 06:25 PM
Created: June 29, 2018 05:29 PM
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