The Buzz

Improving 32 flood-damaged bridges would cost $55 million

Major repairs to 32 structurally deficient bridges damaged in October’s flooding would cost $55 million, the state’s interim roads chief said Monday.

That cost would be in addition to the $137 million in federal and state money to repair road damage from the flooding. The state Transportation Department is asking for $49 million from the state for those repairs.

A total of 221 bridges were affected by the flooding, including 43 bridges considered structurally deficient, roads chief Christy Hall told a panel of state senators tasked with deciding how to pay for flood damage.

“Structurally deficient” means there is deterioration to a bridge but it remains safe, not requiring weight restrictions or its closure.

Three of the 43 structurally deficient bridges damaged by the flooding were in poor enough condition to qualify to be replaced before the rains. Another eight bridges either will be replaced or undergo major repairs.

But that leaves 32 bridges that will be repaired only back to a structurally deficient condition unless lawmakers decide to spend another $55 million to replace them.

“Why partially fix it, if we know the need is there?” Senate President Pro Tempore Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, asked rhetorically.

Cassie Cope: 803-771-8657, @cassielcope

Farm groups want Haley to seek more federal aid

S.C. farmers told legislators Monday that they need more help recovering from October’s flooding.

Farmers lost $376 million because of the flooding, state Agriculture Department commissioner Hugh Weathers said, adding only a faction of that loss – up to a third – is expected to be covered by crop insurance.

Gov. Nikki Haley must ask the federal government for money to offset losses not covered by crop insurance, Weathers said. But Haley has not requested the money, he said.

Weathers said the governor’s staff told him that farms are like other small businesses affected by the flood and should not get added aid that is not available to other small businesses.

Weathers asked state senators Monday to include state money for farmers in a flood-relief package that legislators will consider.

S.C. Farm Bureau Federation president Harry Ott, a former minority leader of the S.C. House, also asked the Senate panel to encourage the governor to request more federal aid for farmers.

“Without this federal assistance … there will be family farms that are foreclosed on,” Ott said.

Senators approved sending Haley a letter Monday asking her to seek added federal support.

But Haley’s office said the affected farmers had access to federally subsidized crop insurance and lost revenue insurance.

“(W)hat the Farm Bureau has asked for is direct cash payments from the federal government to farmers who chose to be underinsured, something that no other industry in the state is asking for or will be receiving, and the governor does not believe we should treat farmers differently than any other business owners in South Carolina,” Haley spokeswoman Chaney Adams said.