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North Country counties get federal disaster status

President Barack Obama declared late last week that 21 upstate New York counties suffered a major disaster as a result of widespread flooding earlier this spring, freeing up federal funds to pay for clean-up and repairs.

Franklin, Essex, and Clinton counties are among those designated as a federal disaster area. In the North Country alone, damage to public property is estimated at well over $25 million, the minimum level to qualify for disaster relief through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

In his declaration Friday, Obama said severe weather that began April 26 and continued throughout May battered North Country homes and businesses and wreaked havoc on infrastructure.

Bill Owens, the Democrat representing New York's 23rd Congressional District, says he's pleased with the federal declaration.

"I continue to stand ready to help local leaders as we enter the next stage in the rebuilding process," he said in an emailed statement.

Heavy rains and snowmelt in late April triggered flooding across northern New York. Floodwaters have receded here in the Tri-Lakes, but many communities along Lake Champlain are still struggling with high waters.

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