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Owens surveys flood damage in Tupper Lake

North Country Congressman Bill Owens and officials from the village of Tupper Lake surveyed damages to municipal infrastructure and private property on Friday in the wake of record flooding earlier this spring.

"Mother Nature has reared her ugly head this year," Owens remarked as he traveled through neighborhoods still recovering after heavy snowfalls this winter gave way to record flooding in April.

Owens, the Democrat representing New York's 23rd Congressional District, said federal dollars are likely to pour in at some point to help repair and improve infrastructure and aid flood victims, but he did not put a time table on when those funds might become available.

But he said it was important for him to see the damage firsthand because it would help him explain to the Federal Emergency Management Agency why the North Country needs its help.

The congressman's visit is part of a region-wide survey of flood damage from Lake Champlain to Tupper Lake.

Owens, who was accompanied by village Mayor Mickey Desmarais, Franklin County Emergency Services Director Rick Provost and village Police Chief Tom Fee, visited parts of the community that were hit the worst by flooding, including Water Street, River Road and Raquette River Drive, where damage was done to a sewer pump station that flooded.

Lake and river levels remain at least a foot above normal but have come down several feet since their peak levels around the end of April.

Residents have already begun recovering from damages but Provost said there's a lot of work to do before things are back to normal. The basement of one home was being excavated, firewood and other debris were strewn around people's lawns and debris lines were visible several feet off the ground on lawns and chain link fences.

Provost said a great deal of damage remained inside many homes and businesses as well, including mold and septic system breaches.

Owens said the cost of the flood damage far exceeded the level FEMA requires and that he was confident that assistance for rebuilding the community's infrastructure would be forthcoming.

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