DES MOINES — Gov. Kim Reynolds and legislative leaders Monday announced a $15 million package for an immediate effort to rebuild after disastrous floods inundated huge swaths of Iowa last month.

Reynolds asked for another $10 million in fiscal 2020 to accelerate housing improvements in flooded areas.

The governor also announced creation of a 15-member Flood Recovery Advisory Board, which she will lead, to coordinate recovery efforts.

“This critical funding will assist in flood control infrastructure repairs and immediate fixes for public safety,” Reynolds said. “The legislation spans levees, drainage areas and flood control improvements, for individuals, businesses and communities affected by this historic flooding.”

President Donald Trump has approved a disaster declaration for 56 of Iowa’s 99 counties affected by severe flooding since March 12. Congress is considering a disaster aid package that includes money for Iowa, but the measure is held up by disagreements between Republicans and Democrats over aid for Puerto Rico after last year’s hurricanes.

Iowa lawmakers may take up parts of the proposed state package this week as they continue work on the $7.6 billion general fund budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

“The governor’s done a really good job of coordinating things,” said Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, who said Reynolds and legislative leaders worked together to come up with the aid plan.

“It’s a plan that’s well-thought out. It’s not duplicating services, and it’s something that we need in the meantime until more federal money comes,” Whitver said.

So far, the estimated damage from the Missouri River flooding is $1.6 billion, but Reynolds expects it to go higher.

The assessment includes $75 million in public assistance, $480 million in individual assistance, $300 million in damage to local businesses, more than $200 million in agricultural impact and more than $500 million to levees, according to state and federal estimates.

About 25,000 homes were destroyed or sustained major damage and more than 4,200 businesses impacted.

The state has created a website at floods2019.iowa.gov to help people harmed by the flooding to apply for aid and to guide travelers who face detours because of washed-out roads.

But it’s difficult to assess the damage because water still is standing in some areas where the levee system was breeched. The governor said 50 levees and nearly 250 miles of the levee system were compromised.

The biggest challenge at the moment is four “catastrophic breeches” in the levee system.

“We can’t really begin to assess the damage as well as start to repair the levee system until we can plug the holes and stop the inflow,” the governor said.

But that could take a year, according to the Army Corps of Engineers. In the interim, the state and local governments can begin working on short-term flood protection.

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Statehouse reporter for The Courier

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