Vonk and other top officials from his staff met with the Legislature’s joint committee on appropriations about his department’s budget for the coming 2013 fiscal year. GFP officials have estimated that damages total about $9 million.
The curveball now facing state lawmakers is that $2 million of federal funding won’t materialize to help with the repairs, contrary to GFP’s earlier expectations.
State Parks and Recreation Director Doug Hofer said the Federal Emergency Management Agency recently ruled that park and recreation areas along the river aren’t eligible for FEMA damage assistance.
That wipes out $2 million that Hofer was counting on from federal aid.
He said FEMA’s decision was based on language in federal law that gave the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers a flood easement along the shoreline. The flood easement was part of the federal law passed by Congress transferring the shore lands from the corps to state ownership.
FEMA is taking the same no-funding position regarding riverside repairs on land previously owned by the corps in Pierre, Fort Pierre, Oacoma and Chamberlain.
The governor is requesting emergency funding from the Legislature to deal with flood damage and mountain pine-bark beetle infestations in the Black Hills.
The emergency legislation would include $2 million for Game, Fish and Parks to offset the FEMA money that was expected but won’t be received, Hofer said.
Hofer said he wants to shift about $1.6 million in his current 2012 budget to pay for some of the flood damages and seeks to earmark $3 million in the 2013 budget for more repairs. There isn’t money available yet for another $2.4 million of damage to state parks and recreation areas.
Hofer said he’s deferring those repairs until at least the 2014 budget and some might be left undone. He said they are the lowest-priority projects.
“Not every project is as important to do as the next,” he said.
One of the thorniest decisions facing GFP is loss of the bridge at Fisher Grove state park along the James River in Spink County. Cost of replacement is estimated at $800,000. GFP officials are considering changing locations of campsites instead.
The bridge has been damaged three of the past five years. The bridge can’t safely handle fully loaded campers and recreation vehicles.
“We’re looking at alternative plans that will be less costly and more affordable,” Hofer said.
The flood-damage repairs are far from the only expensive challenges facing the agency. A major effort is under way in the Black Hills to deal with mountain pine-bark beetle infestations, and upgrades are needed for the wastewater systems at several state park and recreation areas.
Sen. Corey Brown, R-Gettysburg, asked how the flooding affects other park projects. Vonk said most of the capital-project funds will be shifted to flood response.
At the direction of Daugaard's direction, the department halted most land acquisitions during 2011, other than those previously in the works. Vonk said the moratorium will continue through 2012. He said no decision has been reached beyond that.
The Parks and Recreation Division consolidated six regional offices into four, reducing expenses by about $85,000.