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Wednesday August 31, 2011 | 09:47 AM

(Updated as of 10:15 a.m.: Maine Emergency Management Agency Deputy Director Bruce Fitzgerald said this morning that the agency is formally requesting that the Federal Emergency Management Agency send “post disaster assessment” teams to Maine to “help validate the estimates that are coming in from County and local jurisdictions” to determine if Maine qualifies for federal disaster aid. It’s possible that while some counties will qualify, others will not.

“That process is already happening in its early stages, but we want to have a good base of data for the teams to go out and review,” Fitzgerald said.

Fitzgerald said via email that the review will look at “debris removal, costs associated with the actual response to Irene, and damages to public assets (state/local owned roads and bridges, public buildings, parks, etc).”

Fitzgerald said that, “If we find enough damages across the state,” Gov. Paul LePage can ask President Obama “to declare a disaster for Maine.  The damage threshold is currently about $1.7 million for the state, and each county has its own threshold that it must meet to be included in the declaration.  So it's possible that some, but not all, counties would qualify for disaster assistance if we have enough to make the request.”)

In the wake of Hurricane Irene, federal and state authorities are conducting an assessment in Maine to determine whether to add the state to the growing list of places eligible for federal disaster assistance funding, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said Tuesday night.

President Obama already has signed disaster emergency declarations for: Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia, as well as the District of Columbia, the agency said.

Preliminary damage assessments are being done in those states to giver governors a better idea of the full extent of the damage. But a preliminary damage assessment also is being done in Maine to determine whether federal aid also is warranted for the state, the agency indicated.

The Maine Emergency Management Agency said earlier this week that Hurricane Irene “knocked out power to over 200,000 homes and businesses, flooded roads and brought down trees and power lines across roads and buildings.” Reports have said that the storm initially knocked out power to 280,000 Maine homes.

MEMA Director Rob McAleer said in a statement that he was glad the damage was not worse, but added that, "We have a lot of clean-up and assessment to do, before we know the true extent of the damage."

McAleer said state and local emergency management officials were working to determine whether Maine would be eligible for federal aid.

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Kevin Miller is Washington bureau chief for the Portland Press Herald and MaineToday Media. He has worked as a journalist in Maine for 6 ½ years, covering the environment, politics and the State House. Before arriving in Maine, he wrote about politics, government and education for newspapers in Virginia and Maryland.
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