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Owens tours flood ravaged North Country

Congressman Bill Owens was in the North Country on Monday to get a firsthand look at the damage caused by recent flooding across the region.

The Democrat, who represents New York's 23rd Congressional District, says the process for getting federal flood relief assistance is moving along.

Numerous villages, towns, and counties across northern New York were still under declared states of emergency late last week. Flood waters in some communities, like Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake, have slowly begun to recede.

Elsewhere, flooding continues to ravage communities, especially along the shores of Lake Champlain. Some officials say it could take weeks for the lake to return to normal levels.

Owens says the next step is to begin cleaning up and repairing the damage caused by high waters.

"And that's really what we are working on," he said. "We recognize that people were working very hard during the disaster - police, firemen, other volunteers. We want to go to the next step and get people prepared in terms of what you need to do in terms of documentation in order to be eligible for FEMA and then pushing that along."

According to Owens, a state needs to have incurred at least $24.7 million in damage in order to receive flood assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

"We're very sure that floor has been reached," he said. "Then it goes to the governor, and the governor then makes a declaration that one or more counties are a disaster area. And then that goes to the president for a final declaration, and if the president declares it a disaster area, then FEMA relief kicks in."

Owens says damage to public property will be expensive, but it's homeowners and businesses that will suffer the most financially.

"The goal here is to get FEMA kicked in," he said. "Because I think what we're going to find is that we're going to have lots of washed out roads and bridges. But I think individuals and businesses, with their septic systems and their water supplies, may be suffering significant damage. So we really need to be on top of this and focused on it."

Damage in the counties of Essex and Franklin alone will most likely break the $25 million mark. Significant damage has also occurred in Clinton and St. Lawrence counties.

The Hudson, Saranac, and Raquette Rivers - as well as Lake Champlain - all reached historic highs because of flooding caused by rainfall and snowmelt.

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