CARRABASSETT VALLEY — Federal disaster relief was approved this week to help pay for damages in the three Maine counties hit hardest by Tropical Storm Irene, according to the Maine Emergency Management Agency.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency will be reimbursing 75 percent of storm recovery costs for Franklin, Oxford and York counties, which were declared major disaster areas because of storm damage.

Early damage estimates show at least $2.4 million worth of repairs are needed in the three counties combined, according to Lynette Miller, Maine Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman.

The aid will help pay for the roads, bridges and other public infrastructure destroyed Aug. 28 by the heavy rain, high wind and flooding that struck those counties, which are still assessing the cost of repairing the damage, Miller said.

Getting the federal aid was especially important for Carrabassett Valley, the Franklin County town that is facing the most storm damage statewide, according to Miller.

The town is looking at $490,000 worth of repairs, which account for more than half of the storm damage in the entire county, with a total of $933,000, Miller said.

Those damage estimates and the others gathered statewide probably will increase as the storm recovery progresses, she said.

Maine and the individual counties had to show a minimum amount of storm damage to qualify for the federal natural disaster program. Most of the repair work and assessment of the overall storm damage begins after the federal aid is approved, according to Miller.

“Once that (minimum) amount is approved, then the work starts,” she said.

Miller expects other Maine counties also will qualify for federal disaster aid as additional requests are submitted in the coming weeks.

“There could be other counties added once more damage assessment is done,” she said.

Oxford has the second-highest damage assessment so far, at $776,000. York qualified for federal aid with its assessment of $727,000.

Gov. Paul LePage released a statement praising President Barack Obama for approving the request for federal disaster aid for the three counties.

“These counties and towns dealt with downed trees and power lines, heavy rains and flooding, and incurred extraordinary costs,” LePage stated.

Miller said the overall amount of storm damage statewide is much higher than the amounts represented by this particular federal aid program.

For example, the storm damage figure for Franklin County does not include costs of replacing the two bridges on Route 27 that collapsed during flooding in Carrabassett Valley, she said.

Two temporary bridges recently reopened the small stretch of highway, and are allowing construction crews to start building permanent bridges over Carrabassett River and Brackett Brook.

Irene caused raging floodwaters that washed away the two bridges over the waterways, just 300 yards apart where the road provides access to Sugarloaf Mountain Resort. Town Manager Dave Cota did not return a call Thursday about the town’s storm recovery.

The bridge replacement project is getting aid from another federal disaster relief program, which gave Maine $1 million to help pay for damages to major highway systems damaged by the storm, according to Miller.

David Robinson — 861-9287

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