SACRAMENTO, Calif. /California Newswire/ — Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today sent a letter to President Barack Obama through Federal Emergency Management Agency Region IX Regional Administrator Nancy Ward requesting a disaster declaration for the state of California as a result of the April 4 earthquake centered in Baja California, Mexico. The earthquake was widely felt in Southern California, particularly in Imperial County. This event has destroyed and caused serious damages to homes, businesses, schools, water treatment and storage facilities and other public facilities in Imperial County.
The full text of the letter is below:
April 19, 2010
The White House
Washington, DC 20500
Through: Ms. Nancy Ward
Regional Administrator, Region IX
Federal Emergency Management Agency
Oakland, California 94607-4052
Dear Mr. President,
Under the provisions of Section 401 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, 42 United States Code Sections (U.S.C.) 5121-5207 (Stafford Act), and implemented by Title 44 of the Code of Federal Regulations (44 CFR) Section 206.36, I request that you declare a major disaster for the State of California as a result of a magnitude 7.2 earthquake, which struck at approximately 3:40 p.m. April 4, 2010, 16 miles south-southwest of Guadalupe Victoria, Baja California, Mexico, approximately 40 miles south of the United States-Mexico border. The earthquake was widely felt in Southern California, particularly in Imperial County, south of the Salton Sea. This event has destroyed and caused serious damages to homes, businesses, schools, water treatment and storage facilities and other public facilities in Imperial County. To date, two deaths have been reported in Mexico and none have been reported in California.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), there have been more than 3,000 continuing aftershocks, including a 5.3 magnitude aftershock April 8, 2010, which have caused additional damage to California’s economically impoverished Imperial County. Therefore, the closure of the incident period should be determined jointly by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the California Emergency Management Agency (Cal EMA) in consultation with USGS.
In response to the earthquake, on April 4, 2010, I took appropriate action under state law and directed the execution of the State Emergency Plan, in accordance with Section 401 of the Stafford Act. On April 5, 2010, I proclaimed a State of Emergency to exist in Imperial County.
On April 8, 2010, I requested a joint federal, state and local survey of the damaged areas. The Preliminary Damage Assessment (PDA) began April 13, 2010, and was completed April 17, 2010. The PDA indicates the majority of the costs are associated with debris removal, emergency protective measures and the repair and restoration of schools, buildings, utilities, canals and roads and bridges.
California is in an economic crisis with an estimated deficit of $19.9 billion. However, California’s General Fund in 2009 was used to reimburse local agency response and recovery costs in excess of $13.2 million. We endured 10 fires declared under FEMA’s Fire Management Assistance Grant program and 13 events for which a governor’s proclamation authorizing California Disaster Assistance Act funds was issued. These events occurred after I proclaimed an economic emergency in February 2009.
California suffered its first earthquake of the year in January 2010 in Humboldt County with damages estimated at $18 million. In addition, the damages sustained in the recently declared 2010 Severe Winter Storms event (FEMA-1884-DR) are estimated at $60 million. I have determined that these events, coupled with this incident, create an event with the severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the state and the affected local governments and that supplementary federal assistance is necessary. I am specifically requesting Public Assistance (Categories A-G) for Imperial County for damages caused by this earthquake. I am also requesting Disaster Unemployment Assistance, Legal Services, statewide Hazard Mitigation and any other Stafford Act disaster assistance programs that may be appropriate for Imperial County.
Preliminary estimates of the types and amount of assistance needed under the Stafford Act are tabulated in Enclosures A and B. Estimated requirements for assistance from certain federal agencies under other statutory authorities are tabulated in Enclosure C.
Cal EMA continues to work with local government agencies, FEMA and the U.S. Small Business Administration to document all damage associated with this event in order to explore all appropriate federal disaster assistance programs. The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) is currently surveying local jurisdictions in Imperial County to determine if the damage to “on-system” roads qualifies for assistance under the Federal Highways Administration (FHWA) Emergency Relief (ER) Program.
California has a FEMA-approved enhanced state hazard mitigation plan. The 2007 State Multi-Hazard Mitigation Plan (SHMP) was approved on October 12, 2007.
The following information addresses the nature and amount of state and local resources that have been or will be used to alleviate the conditions of this disaster.
In response to the earthquake, local emergency operations centers have been opened to coordinate emergency response activities including evacuations, sheltering, emergency protective measures and water and power restoration. To support the local response activities, on April 4, 2010, I activated the State Operations Center and Southern Regional Emergency Operations Centers. To date, Cal EMA has coordinated and issued formal mission requests to state agencies including Caltrans and the California Departments of Public Health (CDPH) and Water Resources (DWR) and the California Water/Wastewater Agency Response Network (CalWARN). These state departments supported first-response activities including roadway clearance, evacuations, safety assessments and more.
Other state departments, including Social Services (CDSS) and the Emergency Medical Services Authority (EMSA), were instrumental in supporting evacuation and sheltering needs, monitoring potential public health impacts associated with drinking water systems and sewage spills and identifying health facilities that could be impacted by the earthquake. In addition, Cal EMA coordinated mutual assistance with local emergency management agencies, the private sector and other non-governmental agencies to provide needed support to Imperial County.
On April 1, 2010, prior to the earthquake, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the Unemployment Rate for Imperial County was 27.3 percent. Since the disaster, however, the unemployment rate for the county is increasing due to its impact on the availability of irrigation water. According to the county, agriculture is the largest industry in Imperial County and accounts for 48 percent of all employment. Although this region is a desert, the economy is heavily based on agriculture due to the availability of irrigation water, which is supplied wholly from the Colorado River via the All-American Canal. Water from this canal serves up to 35 percent of the population of Imperial County, as well as the El Centro Naval Air Facility, California State Prison Centinela, California State Prison Calipatria, numerous schools and a significant amount of livestock. As a result of the earthquake, federal, state and local officials assessed the damage to the All-American Canal system and determined the cracks in the structure are causing seepage that has increased over time and could result in a catastrophic failure if emergency action is not taken quickly. Although the canal is owned by the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR), the Imperial Irrigation District (IID) is responsible for maintaining it, and for the emergency repairs. At this point, the appropriate agencies, including BOR, IID, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and Imperial County, are monitoring the situation, and emergency repairs are underway.
In addition to the agricultural industry providing employment and revenue opportunities for Imperial County, the retail and service industries also supply the county with additional employment and revenue prospects.
For instance, El Centro and Calexico are the two primary commercial hubs for the county, and both of these cities have been significantly impacted by the earthquake. Because 50 percent of the jobs in El Centro and Calexico come from the service and retail sectors, the damages from the earthquake disaster have brought the county’s commercial regions to a halt, thereby contributing to the rise in the county’s unemployment rate and loss of revenue.
This earthquake has affected all income levels. Per the California Employment Development Department (EDD), as of April 15, 2010, approximately 250 claims for unemployment benefits, directly related to the earthquake, were filed, and continue to escalate. Additional assistance may be necessary to meet the needs of the unemployed and those who suffered losses.
Another major impact of the earthquake disaster has been to the local school districts in Imperial County. For example, there are 12 schools that are closed until repairs are complete and the schools are deemed safe for the students to return. Moreover, in the Calexico Unified School District, Jefferson Elementary will remain closed through the end of the school year as a result of suffering severe structural damages, requiring 850 students to be relocated within the district. With the closure of a large number of the county’s schools, there are additional transportation needs, and there may be a need for temporary classrooms until repairs can be completed.
As previously mentioned, the water delivery systems within the county have been compromised since the earthquake occurred. A water supply task force consisting of Cal EMA, CDPH, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD), CalWARN and California Utilities Emergency Association (CUEA), continues to provide guidance and technical assistance relating to the various water delivery systems within Imperial County. Following are examples of identified water issues:
•A National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit may be required if Calexico Water District determines the effluent from the portable clarifiers and filtration system units it is currently using cannot be handled through its existing recycle program.
•Calexico Water District is temporarily replacing a damaged clarifier with four mobile filtration systems with an individual total treatment capacity of 4-4.8 million gallons per day. Current requirements are 10 million gallon capacity. However, the demand for water will increase significantly as we move into the warmer months with normal summer temperatures upward of 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Permanent repairs are expected to take at least six months.
•The City of Calexico’s sewage treatment plant suffered varying degrees of damage including two clarifiers and cracks under the water retention ponds. Raw sewage flowed into the New River as a result of breaks in two main lines, one leaking 30 gallons per day and the other releasing 200-300,000 gallons per day since April 5, 2010. The bypass on the line that is causing the larger release was repaired on April 8, 2010, eliminating any further leakage into the river.
Along with the irrigation, unemployment and loss of revenue issues that have developed since the earthquake, there are also numerous structures throughout Imperial County that have been evacuated and red-tagged, causing the displacement of many of the county’s residents. For instance, the historic DeAnza Hotel in Calexico, which was home to 117 low-income and elderly persons, was red-tagged after a safety assessment discovered serious environmental and structural concerns and damages to the site. In another location, the El Centro Regional Medical Center has procured mobile office trailers to house its administrative services staff due to the administrative building being red-tagged and deemed unsafe for use.
Due to the many evacuations, shelters were established at Ryerson Hall in El Centro and Imperial Valley College’s gym to accommodate Imperial County’s displaced residents. In addition, Calexico High School in Calexico and Central Baptist Church in El Centro are on standby status if additional sheltering is deemed necessary. As of April 16, 2010, there is one feeding site where 820 meals have been served, and the need is ongoing. In the event that a Local Assistance Center is requested, a location in El Centro has been identified.
Given that the earthquake has brought about massive structural damage to many structures within the county, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) is working with local government to identify and discuss removal options for hazardous materials found in the debris. There are serious concerns regarding asbestos, mercury, lead paint and heavy metals in many of the damaged structures. There are numerous road closures due to the initial earthquake damage as well as the continuing aftershocks. Temporary repairs to cracks on Interstate 8 and settlement off the bridge approaches have been completed. Assessments for visible signs of damage continue throughout the county.
Therefore, due to the significant impact of this disaster, I have directed the following state agencies to provide assistance programs as appropriate, including but not limited to, CalEMA, DWR, CDPH, EMSA, Caltrans, CDSS, EDD, the California Conservation Corps, the Department of Health Care Services, the Department of Mental Health, the Department of Consumer Affairs, the Highway Patrol, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Aging, the Department of Insurance and the Franchise Tax Board.
The American Red Cross (ARC) received a national disaster relief operation number, thereby making this event a national event appropriate for national fundraising, which means additional support and aid can be acquired. ARC is providing food, shelter, clothing, transportation to and from medical appointments, assistance with rentals assistance and locating available housing, medicine replacement and mental health counseling for the impacted communities within Imperial County.
I certify that for this major disaster, the state and local governments will assume all applicable non-federal shares of costs required by the Stafford Act. Total expenditures are expected to exceed $91,324,544, tabulated in Enclosure B.
I request direct federal assistance for work and services to save lives and protect property. Many schools and water treatment facilities have already suffered significant damage, and the All-American Canal is at risk of catastrophic failure. Due to continuing aftershocks and the high probability of additional damage, the response to, and capacity for, related life safety issues and needs may be beyond the immediate capabilities of the state and local governments. Further, due to the severity of this disaster, it may take some time for state or local government to perform or contract for this type of work and services. Therefore, direct federal assistance is needed to address these and other emergency needs of the impacted area.
In accordance with 44 CFR, Section 206.208, the State of California agrees that it will, with respect to direct federal assistance:
1.Provide without cost to the United States all lands, easements and rights-of-ways necessary to accomplish the approved work;
2.Hold and save the United States free from damages due to the requested work, and indemnify the federal government against any claims arising from such work;
3.Reimburse FEMA for the non-federal share of the cost of such work in accordance with the provisions of the FEMA-State Agreement; and
4.Assist the performing federal agency in all support and local jurisdictional matters.
In addition, I anticipate the need to remove debris that poses an immediate threat to lives, public health and safety. Pursuant to Sections 403 and 407 of the Stafford Act, 42 U.S.C. Sections 5170b and 5173, the state agrees to indemnify and hold harmless the United States of America for any claims arising from the removal of debris or wreckage for this disaster. The state agrees that debris removal from public and private property will not occur until the landowner signs an unconditional authorization for the removal of debris.
I have designated Matthew R. Bettenhausen as the State Coordinating Officer for this request. He will coordinate with FEMA to complete damage assessments and may provide further information or justification on my behalf.