Heineman: Fire recovery meeting productive

Governor Dave Heineman says an hour-long private meeting yesterday with 3 northern Panhandle county commissioners about fire recovery efforts was very productive and very gratifying. Over 200,000-acres were burned in Dawes, Sioux, and Sheridan counties during a series of fires this summer, and Heineman welcomes the desire of local officials to take a coordinated approach to recovery efforts.

The commissioners...Stacy Swinney of Dawes County, James Krotz of Sheridan County, and Lotten of Sioux County...had sent the governor a list of priorities drafted at a public planning session last week so he could study them in advance. He says the move made yesterday's meeting even more productive.

Much of the burned area...especially from the Wellnitz Fire in northern Sheridan County...is state land, so the governor wants to find out what recovery help is available from Game and Parks.

Another state agency Governor Heineman plans to talk with is the Department of Roads...the result of the county commissioners asking him about the possibility used or surplus posts from guardrails or right-of-way fences being made available to local ranchers who lost thousands of miles of fences to the fires.

One of the big, immediate needs identified by last week's planning meeting was repairing county roads damaged by the fires or the heavy truck traffic from firefighting efforts. Governor Heineman hopes to find out shortly if the losses to public infrastructure were enough to trigger federal help.

The governor plans to work closely with U-S Senator Mike Johanns, 3rd District Congressman Adrian Smith, and the winner of the Deb Fischer-Bob Kerrey senate race over the coming months and years to push federal officials for as much fire recovery help as possible.

Governor Heineman plans to meet with northern Panhandle officials again in a month to 6 weeks to exchange updates.

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