Yellowstone floods: Funding increased for disaster

Floods in Yellowstone National Park damaged roads, bridges

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The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) announced that would increase its emergency funding by $15 million following historic floods that devastated America's first national park. 

While National Park Service Director Chuck Sams and Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Cam Sholly had previously announced $50 million would be allocated to kick-start recovery efforts, the FHWA increased their commitment to $65 million in "quick release" Emergency Relief (ER) funds for use by the National Park Service, the Montana Department of Transportation and the Wyoming Department of Transportation. 

In a release, the administration called it a "down payment," with $60 million going directly to the parks service, and $3 million and $2 million for to the Montana Department of Transportation and Wyoming Department of Transportation, respectively.

The ER program provides monkey to States, territories, Tribes and Federal Land Management Agencies for highways and bridges damaged by natural disasters or catastrophic events. 

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The FHWA said the quick release funds would be used to reopen roads and prevent any further damage to Yellowstone, and that additional ER funds may be available later.

It is also providing technical assistance to the National Park Service.

"The devastating floods in Yellowstone National Park and its surrounding communities are a significant setback to the region’s critical tourism industry that impact workers, their families, and the economy, well beyond the borders of the park. These floods are also a grim omen of what is to come if we do not take immediate action to combat the root causes of climate change and work to make certain our infrastructure is prepared to handle more frequent and severe weather," Deputy Federal Highway Administrator Stephanie Pollack said in a statement. "This quick release funding will help address critical repairs needed in Yellowstone National Park and beyond, and we stand prepared to support their long-term rebuilding needs."

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The National Park Service said that the initial $50 million would be used to restore temporary access to Gardiner and Cooke City, Montana, as well as other sites. 

It said it would look for opportunities to restore limited visitor access at the park's North Entrance and that – working with the FHWA – it was working on a range of temporary and permanent options to restore access to Silver Gate and Cooke City at the park’s northeast entrance. 

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The park reopened its southern loop this week.