Minnesota lawmakers approve $167.5 million flood aid package

MINNEAPOLIS Fri Aug 24, 2012 6:54pm EDT

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MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) - Minnesota legislators approved $167.5 million of disaster aid on Friday for Duluth and other northeastern Minnesota communities devastated by flooding and high winds in June that ripped up roads and homes and killed zoo animals.

State representatives voted 125-3 to approve the disaster aid legislation and senators voted 60-7 in a special session that lasted about two hours.

No changes were permitted in the aid package agreed to on Wednesday by Democratic Governor Mark Dayton and legislative leaders from both parties. Dayton signed the bill later on Friday.

Heavy rains and high winds forced hundreds of residents from their homes across several northeastern Minnesota communities. In Duluth, flash flooding tore up roads, caused mudslides and sinkholes and killed a dozen animals at the Lake Superior Zoo.

The storms from June 14-21 battered 13 Minnesota counties and three tribal nations, swamping roads in state parks and inundating low-lying areas near Lake Superior.

State officials said the planned spending would come from budget reserves. About $79 million is planned for repairing or replacing roads and bridges. Some of the funds will be used to cover local or state matches for federal aid.

A federal disaster aid request from Minnesota said the storms caused more than $108 million of road and public infrastructure damage alone and that figure was likely to rise.

More than 1,700 homes in Minnesota sustained some damage from the storms, and about 93 percent of those homeowners did not carry flood insurance. Individual home and business owners have been denied federal assistance. The storms also caused damage in areas of Northwestern Wisconsin.

(Reporting by David Bailey; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Bob Burgdorfer)

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