Recent Press Releases

Washington, D.C. —  U.S. Senators Tim Johnson (D-SD) and John Thune (R-SD) and U.S. Representative Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-SD) today sent a letter to President Barack Obama supporting Governor Michael Rounds' request for a presidential disaster declaration in response to a series of severe weather events since March. As a result of these storms, fourteen counties and two Indian Reservations sustained damages to homes and infrastructure, and water levels on the James River are expected to remain at flood levels into July 2009.

"As South Dakotans continue to deal with the effects of spring flooding, I want to be sure we get all the help we can from the federal level. A Presidential Disaster Declaration would open the door to that help," Johnson said.

"State and local authorities have worked admirably to repair the damage caused by this year's flooding, but further assistance will be required," said Thune. "I urge President Obama to support the Governor's request so that federal assistance is available as soon as possible."

"It's critical that in the face of unexpected natural disasters, affected producers and communities have access to federal disaster assistance so they can begin the long process of clean-up and recovery," Rep. Herseth Sandlin said. "In addition to joining with Tim and John in writing the President to support the Governor's major disaster declaration request, I have been in contact with key officials within the White House, FEMA and USDA to further encourage swift action in responding to the Governor's request."

The text of the letter to the President follows:

June 2, 2009

The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Obama:

As members of the South Dakota congressional delegation, we write to express our full support of Governor M. Michael Rounds' request for a presidential disaster declaration covering portions of our state. This declaration would greatly assist South Dakota's recovery from a series of flooding and severe weather events that began with snow storms in March 2009 and subsequent storms that will keep river levels well above flood stage along the James River into July 2009.

The damage from this series of storms is evident in areas across our state, including the fourteen counties and two Indian Reservations identified in our state's disaster declaration request. Homes and farmland have suffered direct, daily impacts from this flooding, and shelters on the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reservation were opened to accommodate dozens of individuals evacuated from their flooded homes. Thousands of acres of farmland cannot be planted due to severe flooding, which will have a financial impact on individual farming operations and the surrounding communities that have an economic stake in these operations.

As South Dakota's disaster declaration request indicates, significant manpower and equipment available at the state, county, and local level have been dedicated to responding to and recovering from this flooding. Additionally, state and local government infrastructure has sustained significant damage, and in some areas, road damage is still occurring. The preliminary damage assessment completed by the state in cooperation with Federal Emergency Management Agency officials has confirmed severe impact to public recreation areas, roads, bridges, culverts, and public buildings, necessitating federal assistance as specified in the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act.

We respectfully request that you declare a major disaster for relevant areas of our state and that you instruct federal agencies to expedite the delivery of all forms of federal disaster assistance for which South Dakota is eligible based upon that declaration. We would be pleased to offer any assistance that you may require in fulfilling this request.

Thank you very much for your consideration of this important matter. Please do not hesitate to contact any of us if we can provide you with additional information.


Tim Johnson John Thune Stephanie Herseth Sandlin
U.S. Senate U.S. Senate Member of Congress