UPDATED: Federal emergency declaration to speed debris removal approved

Gov. Jay Nixon

Gov. Jay Nixon

JEFFERSON CITY — Gov. Jay Nixon has announced that President Barack Obama has approved the governor’s request for a federal emergency declaration to speed debris removal and relieve the strain of response and recovery costs in the St. Louis region.

Nixon signed the request Saturday morning after the St. Louis region was inundated by record flooding, including along the Meramec and Bourbeuse rivers, which damaged homes, businesses and public infrastructure.

“The fast-rising flood water inundated several thousand homes and businesses and left behind a trail of destruction, debris and refuse that will have to be cleaned up quickly so that rebuilding can begin and the region can recover,” Nixon stated in a news release. “I appreciate the debris removal assistance the federal government has agreed to provide, and the speed with which the president responded to our request. Federal assistance with debris removal can help ensure the region moves forward from this historic disaster.”

At the state level, the Missouri National Guard will manage the program and coordinate with the federal and local governments. The Governor said the Missouri National Guard is experienced in such a program, since it led the state’s effort in the expedited debris removal program that assisted the recovery of the Joplin area after the 2011 EF-5 tornado there. At the federal level, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will be requested to facilitate the collection and disposal of both debris left behind by flood water and household debris, including construction materials, carpeting, furniture and appliances.

EUREKA — Gov. Jay Nixon today — Saturday — announced he has requested a federal emergency declaration to speed debris removal and relieve the strain of recovery costs in the St. Louis region, which has been responding to historic river flooding, including along the Meramec and Bourbeuse rivers, that has damaged homes, businesses and public infrastructure.

“Devastating, record flooding has affected hundreds of homes and businesses across the St. Louis region and left a trail of destruction and debris,” Nixon stated in a news release. “Missouri response agencies, businesses, volunteers and citizens have responded heroically to the challenges, and now as we work to recover and move forward, I’m requesting federal resources for debris removal to speed the recovery process and ease the burden on strained local communities.”

Nixon said he will seek U.S. Army Corps of Engineers assistance to collect and dispose of both debris left behind by rising waters and debris that will be removed from flooded homes and businesses, as the region prepares to rebuild and recover.

The governor made the announcement in Eureka at a drop-off point where flood debris and refuse are already accumulating. He was accompanied by elected officials and emergency managers and response leaders from Eureka and St. Louis, Franklin and Jefferson counties.

Before arriving, Nixon and key members of his emergency response team — Department of Public Safety Director Lane Roberts, Missouri National Guard Maj. Gen. Stephen Danner and Missouri State Highway Patrol Colonel Bret Johnson — conducted an aerial inspection of flooding conditions and the aftermath of the high water in the St. Louis region.

This morning, Nixon was in southeast Missouri to inspect conditions there and meet with elected officials and emergency managers and response leaders in Cape Girardeau. In Cape Girardeau, the flooded Mississippi River has already surpassed the previous record crest.

If the federal emergency declaration request is approved, the Missouri National Guard, under Danner, will manage the program at the state level and coordinate with the federal and local governments. The governor said the Missouri National Guard spearheaded the state’s involvement in the expedited debris removal program that assisted the recovery of the Joplin area after the 2011 EF-5 tornado there.

Nixon said Missouri Guardsmen will continue to provide vital support to local law enforcement and the Missouri State Highway Patrol, as they have since he activated the Guard on Dec. 29.

On Dec. 30, President Barack Obama called Nixon by phone to offer the federal government’s support as Missouri responds to and works to recover from the record flooding.