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FEMA director visits Montana communities in flood path

Kayla Desroches
Yellowstone Public Radio
FEMA director Deanne Criswell speaks to Billings City Administrator Chris Kukulski on Friday at a Billings Water Treatment Plant intake pathway surrounded by branches.

Members of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, were in south-central Montana this week to assess the impacts from last weekend's historic floods.

FEMA’s director and local officials Friday morning toured the Billings Water Treatment Plant, which closed temporarily when the Yellowstone River broke a quarter-century elevation record by nearly two feet.

“We basically had that really dirty river water," said Public Works Director Debi Meling. "The elevation got so high that it inundated several of our processes. And that’s when we had to shut down and clean everything out.”

FEMA director Deanne Criswell said she’s meeting with local officials like Meling to hear about the impacts and challenges communities are facing.

“I’ve had this hands-on experience, this conversation with the local officials, that can help drive some of the projects that we want to do forward,” Criswell said.

A FEMA spokesperson told YPR the agency will use visits like this one to inform an assessment and determine what type of disaster assistance to offer. President Joe Biden on Thursday issued a disaster declaration for Montana to help direct federal aid to communities affected by the flood.

Kayla writes about energy policy, the oil and gas industry and new electricity developments.