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Letter to Barack Obama, President of the United States - Disaster Declaration in New Mexico


Location: Washington, DC

The New Mexico Congressional Delegation today confirmed that President Obama has signed a disaster declaration, making qualified New Mexico counties eligible for Federal Emergency Management Agency funds.

In February, parts of New Mexico suffered from record-breaking cold weather that disrupted natural gas and water services. Subsequently, Governor Susana Martinez sought a disaster declaration allowing FEMA to assist communities recovering from the damage. The request, which was approved today, was strongly supported by the Congressional Delegation in a letter to President Obama.

As a result of the declaration, the following counties and communities can seek FEMA assistance: Lincoln, Otero, Rio Arriba, Sierra, Socorro, and Taos Counties and the Tribal jurisdictions of the Mescalero Apache Tribe, Santa Ana Pueblo, Taos Pueblo, and the portions of Santa Clara Pueblo that lie entirely within Rio Arriba County. FEMA continues to review Bernalillo, Doña Ana and Sandoval counties; the declaration can be amended to include them.

Communities can seek funds to defray the cost of debris removal, emergency protective measures, road systems and bridges, water control facilities, public buildings and contents, public utilities and parks. FEMA typically covers costs that are otherwise not covered by insurance.

"The record-breaking cold weather took its toll on a significant part of our state. I'm glad President Obama has signed this disaster declaration, which enables New Mexico communities to enlist FEMA's help," Senator Jeff Bingaman said.

"Tens of thousands of residents and businesses lost heat and water, while state and local authorities were stretched to manage the crisis as a result of the cold conditions. The federal disaster declaration for public assistance by the president is welcome news that will enable FEMA to help the continued recovery of our communities," Senator Tom Udall said.

"I'm pleased that many communities in New Mexico will now receive some relief from this crisis. At the same time, FEMA must address the serious impacts to Bernalillo and Sandoval counties and provide them with the needed designation for assistance," Representative Martin Heinrich said.

"These federal funds will help local and tribal governments recoup some of the costs incurred from their efforts to help families and small businesses rebuild, repair, and recover from the natural gas outage. After traveling throughout the affected region in Northern New Mexico -- witnessing the dedication of first responders, local leaders, and families -- I am pleased our communities will receive this much-needed federal assistance," Representative Ben Ray Luján said.

"I am pleased that FEMA has responded positively to the needs of the people of New Mexico, and will work with the Governor and the congressional delegation in the ongoing effort to make people whole. FEMA still has to finish assessing the full request that includes the state's larger counties, but I commend the agency for moving forward today and not holding up critical action for these jurisdictions," Representative Steve Pearce said.

The New Mexico Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management will be asked to brief eligible counties and communities about the benefits triggered by a disaster declaration. Additionally, that department will receive the initial application from communities, which will have 30 days from their designation date to apply. If approved, FEMA will pay 75 percent of the costs; the state will cover the rest.

February 24, 2011

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

Dear Mr. President:
We respectfully request that you declare a Major Disaster for the State of New Mexico for
Public Assistance as a result of the severe winter storm and related loss of essential natural gas
home heating service throughout New Mexico.
Starting on February 1, New Mexico experienced an extended period of extreme cold, as low at
-30 degrees Fahrenheit in some areas, which set records throughout the state. These extreme
cold temperatures impacted critical natural gas infrastructure, causing a severe shortage of
natural gas in New Mexico starting early on February 3 and led to the loss of central heating to
over 28,000 families, businesses, and public facilities. First responders were stretched to the
limit, over 20 shelters were set up throughout the state, and frozen pipes caused significant
damage to public buildings and critical public water supply infrastructure.
On February 3, Governor Susana Martinez declared a State of Emergency for New Mexico. On
February 23, she requested a federal disaster declaration for public assistance to cover
approximately $4.6 million in documented costs to governments and public infrastructure in
the following counties: Taos, Bernalillo, Doña Ana, Rio Arriba, Socorro, Otero, Sandoval, Sierra,
and Lincoln. In addition, the request includes the following Tribal governments: Taos Pueblo,
Santa Clara Pueblo, Santa Ana Pueblo, San Felipe Pueblo, and the Mescalero Apache Tribe. If
granted, state, local and tribal governments will receive federal resources to help recover from
the disaster and conduct mitigation to prevent further damages in the future. The request for
the federal disaster declaration did not include a request for individual assistance.
Once again, we respectfully request you to quickly declare a Major Disaster for Public
Assistance in the State of New Mexico. Thank you for your prompt consideration of this
request, and if we can be of any further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us.


Senator Jeff Bingaman
Senator Tom Udall
Congressman Martin Heinrich
Congressman Steve Pearce
Congressman Ben Ray Luján

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