Great Falls Tribune: Tester promises help for Rocky Boy

ROCKY BOY — During a tour of the flood-damaged Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation on Saturday, U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., pledged to work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other federal agencies to help get resources to the reservation.

Tester visited sites throughout the Chippewa Cree Tribe’s reservation that were damaged following last week’s severe flooding. He also met with tribal and government representatives to discuss moving forward in the rebuilding process. Tester is a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee and the Homeland Security Committee, which oversees FEMA.

“The devastation a flood can cause out here is unbelievable,” Tester said in a statement. “To see entire roads, homes and bridges washed away, it sticks with you. It’s important for me to see this to get a real sense of how this community is impacted, and how much work we’ve got ahead of us.”

During the tour, Tester joined three representatives from FEMA, who were on the reservation to conduct a preliminary damage assessment — the first step in possibly receiving a presidential disaster declaration. Such a declaration would open the door to additional emergency funding for the tribe to rebuild roads and damaged buildings, but Tester said he was unsure whether it would be granted.

“FEMA will make that decision. It sure looks like it (is worthy of the declaration) to me, but I’m not an expert in that area,” he said in an interview Saturday.

Tribal Councilman John Houle and state Rep. Tony Belcourt, D-Box Elder, also joined Saturday’s tour. They showed Tester where flood waters wiped away several roads and bridges, cutting off access to the tribe’s only health clinic.

“They’ve got some real issues up there in Rocky Boy,” Tester said, adding that it “kinda makes you sick” to see people not being able to get home because of washed-out roads or to see the damage to the tribe’s relatively new health clinic.

“It’s slipping away from itself,” Tester said. “It’s a beautiful building, and it’s breaking apart because the soil underneath it is moving.”

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