This year has been tough for South Dakotans. The storms this spring brought destruction to homes, businesses, roads and communities throughout the state. Unprecedented flooding made it difficult for farmers and ranchers to get into fields. When you add it all up, it’s become the largest federally declared disaster our state has ever seen.
It’s incredibly important for the state to take a front seat in dealing with disaster. And we have.
After assessing damages, we submitted the largest disaster declaration request in South Dakota history. Since President Trump approved our disaster request on June 7, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has provided $1,178,357 for home repairs or replacement and rental expenses. The U.S. Small Business Administration has also approved more than $2.4 million in low-interest disaster loans for businesses and residents. I’m grateful for the federal government’s partnership as we work to get folks back on their feet as quickly as possible.
But many areas continue to face the significant impact of this spring’s storms. At the beginning of July, I visited the Lake Andes area. Some roads were still six feet under water — homes uninhabitable. I’m working closely with FEMA, counties, and townships to make sure we’re bringing in the proper resources so families are equipped with what they need to recover.
Other areas continue to face the aftermath of the flooding, too. Earlier this month, I visited Lake Thompson and Lake Poinsett — two of the lake regions that have seen long-standing damage because of high water levels. For many folks there, four wheelers are the only way to get around. Homes are underwater. Even in recent weeks, the lakes have continued to rise, and there’s no certainty when they will start subsiding.
There are no quick or easy solutions to these problems, but I’m committed to partnering with communities, counties, and FEMA on long-term recovery efforts. As we’ve navigated these rising water levels, I’ve had Game, Fish and Parks and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources looking at drainage issues and seeing what can be done. We’ve also been meeting with county and township officials across the state to help them through the FEMA process and discuss specific short-term needs and projects. In those cases where permission from state government agencies or boards is required by law before beginning projects, I’m also committed to expediting the hearing process to make sure the public gets a fair and timely decision. If this means scheduling emergency board meetings, that’s just what we’ll do.
I’ve said it before, but it’s worth saying again: The storms were strong, but South Dakotans are stronger. This year has been tough, but we’ll get through it. I’ll continue working with community leaders across the state to make sure we stay on track and come back from this even better than before.