Knox County was declared a major disaster area under a declaration requested by Gov. John Baldacci on March 16 and signed by President Barack Obama on March 27.

Initially the declaration will provide assistance under the public assistance program. This sets the stage for Knox County municipalities and several other agencies to seek reimbursements from the state and federal government for damages and expenses stemming from the severe winter storm that began in late February.

Post-storm reports provided by town emergency managers, public works officials and several eligible non-governmental organizations showed the county sustained more than $150,000 in storm-related damage and expenses. Earlier this month, FEMA officials visited the county and completed a preliminary damage assessment supporting the local reports and providing the justification needed for the governor to include Knox County in his declaration request.

Overall, Knox, Lincoln, Cumberland, Sagadahoc and York counties sustained damages to public infrastructure estimated to exceed $2.3 million. The federal assistance will reimburse state and local governments 75 percent of the costs for emergency response efforts and to repair or replace storm-damaged public property and infrastructure.

The declaration also paves the way for the release of additional federal mitigation grant funding. Municipalities participating in the Knox County Disaster Mitigation Plan will have the opportunity to compete for funding to assist with local projects intended to reduce damages from future natural disasters.