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Originally published December 8, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified December 8, 2007 at 6:32 PM

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Bush declares flooding a disaster, but action isn't everything state leaders want

President Bush has declared Washington state's flooding a major disaster, clearing the way for some federal aid. The money will supplement...

SEATTLE — President Bush has declared Washington state's flooding a major disaster, clearing the way for some federal aid.

The money will supplement recovery efforts in Grays Harbor, Kitsap, Lewis, Mason Pacific and Thurston counties. The Federal Emergency Management Agency named a coordinating officer to oversee federal recovery operations, and said more counties may be covered as officials complete damage surveys.

The declaration provides only limited disaster aid: Initial aid is for immediate needs such as debris removal and emergency measures, said Dennis Hunsinger, regional administrator for FEMA Region X. Hunsiger was aboard a helicopter with Washington state political leaders and Carlos Castillo, assistant administrator for disaster assistance.

Today, Hunsinger and Castillo are taking an aerial tour of the storm- and flood-damaged areas with Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire and other state political leaders who are hoping to make a case for more relief funds.

Gregoire is not satisfied with Bush's announcement, she said this afternoon. "We need individual assistance," she said.

Gregoire said she will authorize $300,000 in emergency funds from the governor's budget for individual assistance until federal government comes through.

What the state is really looking for, they said, is more expansive public assistance, which would cover money to rebuild roads and public buildings, and what is called individual assistance, which would give individual property owners up to $28,000.

Violent storms beginning on Dec. 1 cut electric power, destroyed buildings, caused widespread flooding and were blamed for at least six deaths. A 20-mile stretch of Interstate 5 south of Olympia was covered by up to 10 feet of water, but was finally reopened Friday.

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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