Damage assessments ongoing after western Massachusetts floods

A garage off Hockanum Road in the Northampton Meadows on the morning of July 12, 2023. (Ben James/NEPM)
A garage off Hockanum Road in the Northampton Meadows on the morning of July 12, 2023. (Ben James/NEPM)

State officials are assessing damage to western Massachusetts farms in the wake of recent heavy rains and flooding.

Jo Comerford, a state senator from Northampton, said the initial number of those impacted is "staggering."

"Seventy-five farms, about 2,000 acres — we expect that to rise," Comerford said. "About $10 million in short-term damage with the long-term estimate not yet in."

Comerford said the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) is providing technical assistance to farmers trying to salvage whatever crops they can. She also said conversations are ongoing about what financial help might look like.

"Our economic development secretary, Yvonne Hao, governor, lieutenant governor, MDAR, are talking about more short-term help, which may look like a no- or low-interest loan," she said.

Comerford said officials are also considering direct payments to farmers.

The group Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture is also offering up to $25,000 in no-interest emergency loans to farmers.

Over the weekend, U.S Rep. Jim McGovern and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren toured farms in western Massachusetts to meet with growers and assess the damage. On Monday, Gov. Maura Healey was due to visit a farm in Deerfield along with other state officials — her second visit to the region in the past week to survey flood damage.

The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) on Monday began the process of putting a price tag on flooding-related damage for cities and towns from the last week.

Sara Porter, a spokesperson with MEMA, said the first order of business was helping impacted communities clean up and get started with repairs. With that taken care of, she said damage assessments are underway.

"Those consist of communities with support from our local coordinators compiling all the costs from storm damage as well as personnel, overtime and really any costs associated with the events to try to tally up how much these events might cost," Porter said.

Porter said the process will help determine what financial assistance cities and towns could be eligible for, to help cover those expenses.

This story is a production of the New England News Collaborative. It was originally published by New England Public Media.



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