Although there were no flood waters standing on Water Street in Salem, US Senator Joe Donnelly could see the results of the recent flooding.
From the pictures collected for him as he met in City Hall on Memorial Day with local leaders to the muddy marks on the sides of buildings along the West Fork of Blue River and Brock Creek in Salem, Donnelly got a first hand look at what Salem residents went through when parts of Salem flooded on May 19.
“We’ve started working with state and federal agencies, said Salem Community Development Director Greg Fitzloff. “This was a 1000 year plus flood. Water came up 14 feet in 12 minutes.”
“I was with the Vice-President [Mike Pence] last Tuesday night at his house,” Donnelly said Monday evening. “I said, ‘We’ve got something serious to talk about in Salem.’ He’s concerned. I said I would bring him back a report of what’s going on. I talked to the Vice President’s Chief of Staff and said this is ‘Job One’for us back home. He said let us know what we need to do.”
Donnelly and his staff toured the flooded area on Main Street, Water Street and Elizabeth Streets with members of the Salem City Council.
“One of the issues we’re having is…there are multiple jurisdictional disputes going on,” said Fitzloff, remarking about dealing with multiple state and federal agencies.
Fitzloff said the USDA has provided its first assessment in cleaning up 3000 feet along the West Fork of Blue River.
“They will give the city $45,000,’ he told Donnelly. “The Washington County Health Department estimate is $1.25 million. That’s a concern we’ve got.”
Fitzloff said the USDA has rules on what they can and can’t do regarding the creek and the bank, said Fitzloff.
He said USDA can’t clean up the plastic.
“We suggested going in and cutting the branches but the DNR says no because some of it might end up in the creek,” Fitzloff explained. “We suggested we could clear cut the treesbut the US Fish and Wildlife says no, noting it’s summer and we’re in the midst of brown bat nesting season.”
Fitzloff said the Small Business Administration will be coming to Salem this week.
“The SBA will have to come in and do their business by business assessment,” said Fitloff. “As much as everybody wants to understand the process. It’s going to be another 30 days before we even have the assessments done. At which time people can start to make decisions. Problem is we’re going to go down and see the businesses and they’re going to be out of business.”
Donnelly said he would will share the information and status of the cleanup efforts with the Mike Pence’s office Tuesday morning.
“Hopefully we can get some answers,” Donnelly said. “I can’t promise what the answers are. If there are three agencies that need to work better together, we’ll see what we can do. Let us start working with the different agencies…see if we can get some common sense answers.”