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Tribes considering disaster options



Tribes considering disaster options

Rocky Boy, Fort Belknap could apply as prime grantees in disaster declaration

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Published: Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

Representatives of the Chippewa Cree Tribe of Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation and the Fort Belknap Indian Community of the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation said Tuesday that both reservations might apply to handle their own federal assistance, although that is not certain.

Loren “Bum” Stiffarm, CEO at Fort Belknap, said after a disaster assistance kick-off meeting in Havre that representatives of his reservation want to talk more with Rocky Boy officials about how the process went during last year’s disaster. A decision as to whether Fort Belknap will handle its own disaster assistance or work as a subgrantee of the state government will likely be made during a tribal council meeting early in July, he said.

Tim Rosette Sr., public works administrator at Rocky Boy, said during the meeting that the Chippewa Cree are likely to apply as a grantee again, although there are some issues — including the impacts of a law passed this year by the Legislature — that need to be looked at.

House Bill 279 adds language describing how disasters on Indian reservations will be handled in existing laws.

“We may have to look at it again, ” Rosette said.

Last year, the Chippewa Cree became the first tribe in the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s six-state Region VIII, which includes Montana, to become the main grantee in administering its disaster.

In the federal disaster assistance process, the state is the grantee and local governments apply to be subgrantees. The state receives any federal disaster assistance funds, then disburses the money to the subgrantees.

Indian reservations have the option to apply to be the grantee for disasters declared within their boundaries and receive the funding directly. Rocky Boy successfully applied for that option last year.

Rocky Boy, which suffered more than $30 million of flood-related damage, also successfully requested to receive full funding for the disaster repairs. Normally, the grantee and subgrantees must make up a 25-percent cost share.

This year, Rocky Boy experienced flooding after a heavy storm in the Bear’s Paw Mountains early this month, which also caused flooding along Beaver Creek, including heavy damage in Beaver Creek Park and flooding on the lower end of the creek.

Fort Belknap has been experiencing flooding since March, with families in its northeast section repeatedly forced from their homes and families in the Milk River Valley near the agency flooded out this month.

The communities of Hays and Lodge Pole experienced heavy damage during a flash flood in mid-May.