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Public Statements

Letter to The Honorable Barack Obama President of the United States

Letter

By:
Date:
Location: Unknown

Governor John Lynch has asked President Barack Obama for a presidential declaration that, if granted, will make New Hampshire eligible for federal disaster aid to help the state recover from the devastating effects of Tropical Storm Irene.

"The damage to homes in an area in Conway (Carroll County) is devastating. Some 90 homes or more in the Transvale Acres area of Conway have been impacted with many of those homes suffering major or total damage from flooding," Governor Lynch wrote in his request. "The damage in this area is among the worst I have witnessed as Governor resulting from flooding."

In addition to damage to homes, the West Lebanon area was hit hard with extensive damage to dozens of businesses and six shopping centers along Route 12A, leaving hundreds of New Hampshire citizens out of work - some for an extended time - due to the closure of businesses damaged by the storm. Damage to businesses statewide continues to be assessed by FEMA teams, in conjunction with the state and federal Small Business Administration.

"The heavy rains from Irene caused substantial flooding and significant damage to several of our roads and bridges, and other public infrastructure. I have seen firsthand the damage to Route 302 in Hart's Location, Route 49 in Thornton, the Loon Mountain Bridge in Lincoln and the Kancamagus Highway and other areas," Governor Lynch said. "We are making it a priority to repair and open those roads as soon as possible and certainly any federal assistance will help defray the costs of repairing what is really significant damage."

Local communities and the State estimate damage to public infrastructure will end up at more than $25 million. Based on the FEMA damage assessments completed as of Friday, the Governor is initially requesting a declaration for public assistance for Coos, Carroll, Grafton and Merrimack counties. FEMA teams were also in Strafford and Sullivan counties on Friday assessing damage and eligibility for public assistance. As the FEMA assessment teams complete their work, Governor Lynch would amend his request to cover additional counties that meet the federal damage thresholds.

At the height of the storm, over 150 state roads and 475 local roads were closed or severely restricted. Twelve rivers reached flood stage during the storm, some of which rose to over 150 percent of their historic high levels. Portions of the State's major highways suffered severe washouts, affecting both roads and bridges.

The storm also knocked out power to over 175,000 utility customers and debris from the storm resulted in several serious injuries, including one confirmed fatality.

Governor Lynch is requesting both public assistance, which will help cover municipal and state recovery costs, and individual assistance. FEMA is conducting separate assessments for individual assistance, and will make a determination about eligibility on a county-by-county basis.

For individuals, federal aid may provide some relief, but will not cover all costs of recovery. The state and communities would receive assistance to cover emergency operations and repair costs, and funds for mitigation to help prevent future flooding.

FEMA teams continue to assess damage to homes and communities. Homeowners should collect and retain estimates from contractors, bills for actual expenditures, photographs - any records that may be used to establish the amount of losses. Reporting losses to 2-1-1 will help the state determine the extent of damage to private property and will assist state officials in applying for federal disaster assistance. It will not qualify anyone for assistance.

If assistance is granted, property owners would then file more detailed property damage reports directly with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

A copy of the letter to President Obama is below.

September 2, 2011

The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States
The White House
Washington, D.C. 20500

Through: Mr. Don Boyce, Regional Administrator
Federal Emergency Management Agency
Region 1
99 High Street
Boston, MA 01210

Dear Mr. President:

Under the provisions of Section 401(a) of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, 42 U.S.C. §§5121-5208 (Stafford Act), and implemented by 44 CFR § 206.36, I request that you declare a major disaster for the State of New Hampshire as a result of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene and associated flooding for the period of August 24, 2011 and continuing. As you know, Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene had a devastating impact here, bringing heavy rain, inland and coastal flooding and flash flooding, and high winds to many areas of the State. With the approach of the storm on August 26th, I requested an Emergency (Pre-Landfall) Declaration to help facilitate a coordinated federal and state response to the storm, and I appreciate your prompt response to that request.

According to the National Weather Service, from August 27 through August 28th, Hurricane/Tropical Strom Irene brought between 5 and 8 inches of rain in the White Mountains and between 3 and 6 inches throughout most other areas of the state. The resulting flooding and flash flooding caused widespread destruction to the community infrastructure in several counties. The impact of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene on local flooding was compounded by the fact that many of the same areas of New Hampshire experienced flooding and flash flooding in March, April and May of this year.

At the height of the storm, over 150 state roads and 475 local roads were closed or severely restricted. Twelve rivers reached flood stage during the storm, some of which rose to over 150% of their historic high levels and experienced stream flows representing greater than 100-year events. Portions of the State's major highways suffered severe washouts, affecting both road and bridges. Over 175,000 utility customers were without power; and debris from the storm resulted in several serious injuries, including one confirmed fatality. Hundreds of New Hampshire citizens are out of work -- some for an extended time - due to the closure of business damaged by the storm.

The impact of the storm on businesses and homeowners across the State has been serious. While joint FEMA, State and local response teams continue their assessments for Individual Assistance and Small Business Assistance in several counties, preliminary field data indicate that no fewer than 7000 homes statewide were impacted, with over 140 homes suffering major or total damage.

The damage to homes in an area in Conway (Carroll County) is devastating. Some 90 homes or more in the Transvale Acres area of Conway have been impacted with many of those homes suffering major or total damage from flooding. Most if not all of these residents are low income and have no resources to respond the loss of property and their possessions. The damage in this area is among the worst I have witnessed as Governor resulting from flooding.

While damage to business statewide is still being assessed, the West Lebanon area in the Connecticut River Valley was hit hard with extensive damage to dozens of businesses and six shopping centers along Route 12A.

Pursuant to 44 CFR § 206.36, I have determined that these incidents are of such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the State and affected local governments, and that supplementary Federal assistance is necessary to save lives, protect property, public health, and safety, or to lessen, or avert the threat of a disaster.

Based upon the ongoing Preliminary Damage Assessment being performed jointly by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, New Hampshire Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management and local communities that began on August 31, 2011, I am requesting that you declare a major disaster for Coos, Grafton, Carroll, Merrimack, and all others counties in New Hampshire that become eligible for federal assistance based upon the ongoing Preliminary Damage Assessments. As of today, the joint FEMA, State and Local teams have verified statewide infrastructure damages of over $2,100,000 from Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene. Assessment teams estimate that damage to statewide public infrastructure alone may exceed $25 million. As the Preliminary Damage Assessment teams continue their work, additional counties will be added to this request.

I request that a major disaster declaration for New Hampshire be issued so that the requested assistance programs will be available to meet the needs of the communities and people in the affected areas as soon as possible.

At this time, I am specifically requesting that Public Assistance be designated for Coos, Grafton, Carroll and Merrimack and all other eligible counties, as information is verified by the Assessment Teams, and that the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program be designated statewide.

The FEMA Individual Assistance teams are now being deployed to hard hit areas, and I am also requesting Individual Assistance and other programs for all eligible counties based upon the results of the ongoing Preliminary Damage Assessment. As further information is reported by the joint assistance teams, I anticipate supplementing this request.

In response to the approach of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene, on August 26th , I took appropriate action under State law and directed the execution of the State Emergency Plan in accordance with Section 401(a) of the Stafford Act. Additionally, I directed the State Emergency Operations Center to actively direct and coordinate the State's emergency response and recovery to this event and remain open as necessary throughout the event period.

The State of New Hampshire has an approved standard Hazard Mitigation Plan dated October 2010.  The Plan identifies flooding and flash flooding as a high-risk hazard and has prioritized projects to lessen the effects of severe events, such as this, statewide. The State participates in the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) and the Pre-Disaster Mitigation (PDM) program. In addition, local hazard mitigation plans identify flooding and flash flooding as a severe hazard and prioritize projects to minimize the effects of these events.

Preliminary estimates of the types and amount of emergency assistance needed under the Stafford Act, and emergency assistance from certain Federal agencies under other statutory authorities, are tabulated in Enclosure B (Estimated Requirements for Public Assistance). Estimated requirements for assistance from certain Federal agencies under other statutory authorities are referenced in Enclosure B.

The following information is furnished on the nature and amount of State and local resources that have been or will be used to alleviate the conditions of this emergency:

* In response to National Weather Service reports on the progress of Hurricane Irene as it left the Caribbean and tracked toward North Carolina, the State's Emergency Operations Plan was activated beginning on August 24, 2011, and I instructed the Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management to staff the State Emergency Operations Center. That morning, the SEOC was initially staffed to monitor the weather event and to respond to local requests at Level 2. The Director initiated Emergency Support Functions as necessary at that time.
* On August 26, 2011, based on continuing National Weather Service Reports and the imminent arrival of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene, I declared an emergency under state law for the entire State and sought an Emergency Disaster Declaration for all ten counties in the State. The Emergency (Pre-Landfall) Declaration was issued later that day.
* On August 27, 2011 at 0700 the EOC went to a level 3, 24-hour operational status. The EOC has continued on a 24-hour, 7-day per week status to date (09/01/2011).
* At level 3, the State EOC was staffed to monitor the weather events and to respond to local requests. Numerous Emergency Support Functions (ESFs) were activated to effectively respond to this event. The ESFs were Transportation, Communications and Alerting, Public Works and Engineering, Emergency Management, Firefighting, Mass Care, Sheltering and Human Services, Resource Support, Health and Medical, Search and Rescue, Hazard Materials, Energy, Public Safety and Law Enforcement. The Emergency Management ESF included Dam and Water Resources, Mapping and the National Guard.
* The National Guard was activated for this response. Tasks included planning cell activities, traffic control, shelter assistance, State EOC support, aerial damage assessment, evacuation assistance, and resource support and deployment.
* During this weather event, 110 local emergency operations centers (LEOC) across the State opened to respond to the needs and safety of the community. Activities included sheltering of residents, clearing debris, road access and security, dam and stream level monitoring, health and welfare checks to homes, and coordination of the response and recovery efforts.
* The New Hampshire Department of Transportation provided technical and engineering assistance to the hardest hit communities in surveying state and local roads and culverts and developing long-range solutions to mitigate local infrastructure damaged in this event.
* The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, Dam Bureau, provided stream monitoring and dam inspections following the flash flooding.
* Communities in Coos and Grafton counties in northern New Hampshire have experienced three earlier flooding and flash flooding events; in March, April and May, of this year. Some recently repaired infrastructures were once again damaged in this event.

I certify that for this emergency, the State and local governments will assume all applicable non-Federal share of costs required by the Stafford Act. Total expenditures are expected to exceed $526,000 in accordance with the table in Enclosure D.

The anticipated needs of the communities will far exceed the resources available to the state and local government as:

(i) There were numerous communities with significant damages to local infrastructure to include road, culvert and/or bridge washouts. Repair cost may exceed a community's capability and pose life and safety issues.

(ii) The threshold in some communities exceeded $100 dollar per capita.

The type of assistance requested:

New Hampshire is still actively responding to this disaster and assisting local communities in the recovery. Although unable to fully quantify the amount of assistance that will be needed from Federal resources, a declaration at this time is critical in getting anticipated resources in place to protect life and public safety. The State is specifically requesting Direct Federal Assistance, to include technical assistance, in anticipation of debris removal. The need for assistance from Federal resources will continue to grow as the extent of damage is fully assessed.

In accordance with 44 CF § 206.208, the State of New Hampshire agrees that it will, with respect to direct Federal assistance:

* Provide without cost to the United States all lands, easement, and rights-of-ways necessary to accomplish the approved work.
* Hold and save the United States free from damages due to the requested work, and shall indemnify the Federal Government against any claims arising from such work;
* Provide reimbursement to FEMA for the non-Federal share of the cost of such work in accordance with the provisions of the FEMA-State Agreement; and
* Assist the performing Federal agency in all support and local jurisdictional matters.

In addition, I anticipate the need for debris removal, which poses an immediate threat to lives, public health, and safety. Pursuant to Sections 403 and 407 of the Stafford Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 5170b & 5173, the State agrees to indemnify and hold harmless the United States of America for any claims arising from the removal of debris or wreckage for this disaster. The State agrees that debris removal from public and private property will not occur until the landowner signs an unconditional authorization for the removal of debris.

I have designated Michael J. Poirier as the State Coordinating Officer for this request. He will work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency in continued damage assessments and write-ups and may provide further information or justification on my behalf.

Sincerely,
John H. Lynch
Governor


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