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Steel Creek Bridge and Culvert Repair

Appeal Brief

Disaster1930-DR-IA
ApplicantDecatur County Secondary Roads
Appeal Type2nd
PA ID#053-UJY1X-00
PW ID#1812 and 1822
Date Signed

Citation:  FEMA-1930-DR-IA, Decatur County Secondary Roads, Steel Creek Bridge and Culvert Repair, Project Worksheets (PWs) 1812 and 1822

Cross-Reference:  Roads and Bridges

Summary:  Heavy rainfall during 2010 spring and summer storms damaged numerous roadways within Decatur County Secondary Roads’ (Applicant) jurisdiction during the incident period from June 1, 2010 to August 31, 2010.  Three weeks after the incident period ended, the Applicant experienced heavy rainfall that was not included in the federally declared disaster.  A combination of the resultant high water and the accumulation of vegetative debris against the piers of a three span steel girder bridge on Steel Creek resulted in scouring of the bridge embankments, damage to the headwall, and failure of the west bridge span.  At another site on Steel Creek, vegetative debris clogged a culvert and produced a surcharge that resulted in the collapse of the corrugated metal pipe.  At the Applicant’s request, FEMA prepared PWs 1812 and 1822 for a total of $204,324, to document the damage.  FEMA determined that the PWs were ineligible for funding because the damage occurred after the incident period and the work was not a direct result of the declared disaster.  In the first appeal, the Applicant argued that although the damage occurred after the incident period, the damage to the bridge and culvert was a result of the accumulation of debris from the declared disaster.  In letters dated February 10 and February 15, 2011, the Regional Administrator denied the appeal for each PW, citing Title 44 of the Code of Federal Regulations (44 CFR) §206.223(a)(1), which states that for work to be eligible it must “be required as the result of the emergency or major disaster event.”  In the second appeal, the Applicant reiterates the argument that the damage resulted from the debris blockage caused from the preceding declared disaster.  However, the Applicant has not provided documentation to demonstrate that the debris blockage was the result of the declared disaster.

Issue:  Is the repair of damage that resulted from flooding after the end of the incident period eligible for reimbursement?

Finding:  No.

Rationale: 44 CFR § 206.32(f), Definitions, Incident Period; 44 CFR § 206.202(d)(1), Application procedures, Project worksheets; 44 CFR §206.223(a)(1), General work eligibility, General; Public Assistance Guide (FEMA 322), Eligibility, Direct result.

Appeal Letter

September 14, 2012

Mark SchoutenAdministratorIowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management Division7105 NW 70th AvenueCamp Dodge, Bldg. W-4Johnston, Iowa 50131-1824

Re: Second Appeal - Decatur County Secondary Roads, 053-UJY1X-00, Steel Creek Bridge and Culvert Repair, FEMA-1930-DR-IA, Project Worksheets (PWs) 1812 and 1822

Dear Mr. Schouten:

This letter is in response to two letters from your office, dated April 26, 2012, which transmitted a second appeal on behalf of Decatur County Secondary Roads (Applicant).  The Applicant is appealing the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) decision to deny $204,156 in additional costs to repair a damaged bridge and culvert on Steel Creek as documented on PWs 1812 and 1822, respectively.

Background

A severe weather system in the summer of 2010 produced high winds, heavy rain, tornadoes, and flooding and resulted in major disaster declaration FEMA-1930-DR-IA on July 29, 2010.  The declaration included Public Assistance for Decatur County.  Several roadways within the Applicant’s jurisdiction sustained disaster damage during the incident period from June 1, 2010 to August 31, 2010.  FEMA prepared eight PWs and awarded the Applicant $136,009 for reimbursement of eligible repairs.

According to the Applicant, three weeks after the incident period, 9.3 inches of rain fell in Decatur County from September 19 to September 23, 2010.  On the evening of September 19, 2010, a Decatur County resident reported erosion to the abutment of a three span steel girder bridge on Steel Creek.  The Applicant dispatched a crew that barricaded the bridge and documented a crack in the road surface of the west span.  An accumulation of vegetative debris wedged against the bridge’s piers diverted the Creek’s water flow away from the center of the channel toward the abutments.  By September 21, 2012, when the Applicant reported the damage to FEMA, the high water flow had eroded the abutments, damaged the headwall and wing walls, and dislodged the bridge’s 42-foot long west span.  On January 20, 2011, FEMA prepared PW 1812 for $131,832 to document the damage and the scope of work to repair the Applicant’s bridge.

The Applicant also reported to FEMA on September 21, 2010, damage to a 74-foot long, 8-foot by 15-foot multi-plate corrugated metal pipe culvert at a second site on Steel Creek.  Vegetative debris lodged in the culvert’s inlet obstructed the flow of water producing a surcharge that resulted in the collapse of several sections of the culvert.  Soon after the damage, the Applicant excavated the damaged culvert and replaced it with a 12-foot diameter culvert for $66,722.  The Applicant also placed filter fabric and rip-rap at the culvert’s inlet and outlet for an additional $5,602.  On January 20, 2011, FEMA prepared PW 1822 for $72,634 to document the culvert damage, repair, and 406 Hazard Mitigation measure, as well as $310 in direct administrative costs.

Upon review, FEMA determined that the costs of repairing both the bridge and culvert were ineligible for reimbursement under FEMA’s Public Assistance Program because the damage was caused by flooding after the incident period.  The FEMA representative noted on both PWs that “[t]he Applicant stated the damages occurred on 9/21/10.  This is not within the incident period of this disaster.  Therefore the cost for this PW is not recommended for funding.  FEMA 322 Public Assistance Guide, June 2007 page 29 states, “work must be required as a direct result of the declared major disaster”, therefore damages resulting from a post-disaster event are not eligible.

First Appeal

On March 14, 2011, the Applicant submitted a first appeal to the Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management Division (Grantee).  In the appeal letter, the Applicant claimed that the damage to the bridge and culvert was not due exclusively to the heavy rainfall three weeks after the incident period, rather, that the damage was the result of the cumulative effects of the unusually high amount of precipitation in Decatur County between May and September 2010.  Furthermore, the Applicant stated that the reason FEMA denied the two PWs was because the Applicant failed to report the damage to FEMA before the end of the incident period.

The Grantee forwarded the first appeal to FEMA with two letters dated May 23, 2011.  In the letters, the Grantee stated that it did not support the Applicant’s appeal because the Applicant did not present evidence that the flood damage to the facilities was a direct result of the declared disaster.  In letters dated February 10 and February 15, 2011, FEMA denied the first appeal.  The Regional Administrator determined that the damage to the culvert and bridge was not eligible for reimbursement in accordance with Title 44 of the Code of Federal Regulations (44 CFR) §206.223(a)(1), which states that for work to be eligible it must “be required as the result of the emergency or major disaster event.”  The responses also noted that page 29 of the FEMA Public Assistance Guide (FEMA 322, July 2007) states, “damage that results from a cause other than the designated event, such as a post-disaster damaging event… is not eligible.”

Second Appeal

On March 12, 2012, the Applicant submitted a second appeal to the Grantee.  In the letter, the Applicant insists that the rainfall and the resultant floodwaters from the storm on September 19, 2010, were insufficient to transport the large volume of debris observed blocking the bridge piers and culvert inlet.  Instead, the Applicant claims that most of the debris had amassed as a result of heavy rain and flooding during the incident period of the declared disaster.  While the Applicant recognizes the effects of the floodwater from the post incident period rainfall as the proximate cause of the damage, the Applicant contends that the damming of the creek by the accumulation of vegetative debris during the incident period was the ultimate cause of the damage to the bridge and culvert.  In addition, the Applicant repeated its assertion that FEMA denied the PWs because the damage was reported to FEMA after the end of the incident period.  The Grantee forwarded the Applicant’s second appeal to FEMA on April 26, 2012.  The Grantee did not support the second appeal for the reason that the facilities were damaged by the heavy rainfall and not the declared disaster.

Discussion

With regard to the Applicant’s claim that FEMA denied the PWs because the Applicant reported the damage to FEMA after the incident period; this supposition is incorrect.  The timeframe for requesting assistance for damage is codified in 44 CFR § 206.202(d)(1)(ii), Application procedures, Project worksheets, where “[t]he applicant will have 60 days following its first substantive meeting with FEMA to identify and to report damage to FEMA.”  In this case, FEMA conducted a Kick-off meeting with the Applicant on August 23, 2010.  Accordingly, the Applicant was required to report all disaster-related damage to FEMA on or before October 22, 2010.  For the PWs addressed in this appeal, the damage was reported to FEMA on September 21, 2010, which was within the established regulatory timeframe.

However, pursuant to 44 CFR § 206.223(a)(1), General work eligibility, for work to be eligible for FEMA Public Assistance, it must “[b]e required as the result of the emergency or major disaster event.”  Furthermore, 44 CFR § 206.32 (f), stipulates that “[n]o Federal assistance under the [Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance] Act shall be approved unless the damage or hardship to be alleviated resulted from the disaster-causing incident which took place during the incident period or was in anticipation of that incident.”  The Applicant claims that heavy rains and flooding from the declared disaster carried debris downstream, depositing it at the bridge piers and culvert inlet.  The debris then obstructed the flow of floodwater from the heavy rainfall three weeks after the end of the incident period causing damage to both the bridge and the culvert.

The procedure requiring applicants to report disaster-related damage to FEMA provides FEMA and the Grantee the opportunity to verify the existence and cause of damage to property.  When situations and circumstances preclude a visual verification, documentation is often a suitable alternative.  In the declared disaster, the Applicant did not identify removal of debris in Steel Creek as necessary to eliminate an immediate threat of significant additional damage to improved public or private property.  Further, the Applicant has not provided documentation demonstrating that the debris blockages were a direct result of the declared disaster.  Without evidence of the debris in Steel Creek prior to the post-disaster storms, it is difficult to determine the source of debris and the timeframe for when it was transported to the Applicant’s facilities.  Finally, and most critically, it is important to note that the presence of debris in the creek did not damage either the bridge or culvert, rather, the reported damage was directly attributable to the increased flow of water that resulted from the rainfall three weeks after the incident period.  As the damage was not a direct result of the declared disaster, the costs of repairing the bridge and culvert are ineligible for reimbursement.

Conclusion

I have reviewed all of the information submitted with the appeal and determined that the Regional Administrator’s decision in the first appeal is consistent with Public Assistance regulations and policy.  Accordingly, I am denying the second appeal.

Please inform the applicant of my decision.  This determination constitutes the final decision on this matter pursuant to 44 CFR §206.206, Appeals.

Sincerely,

/s/

Deborah IngramAssistant AdministratorRecovery Directorate

cc:  Beth Freeman      Regional Administrator      FEMA Region VII 

Appeal Analysis

Last updated May 28, 2020

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