The U.S. Department of Transportation‘s Federal Highway Administration has given $4.65 million to the U.S. Forest Service to repair the federally-owned roadways in the Cherokee National Forest that were damaged by heavy rainfall and flooding.
“These emergency funds will help restore vital transportation links in the Cherokee National Forest that were damaged by last month’s floods,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “Transportation is an essential part of disaster recovery, and these funds will help clear debris and reconstruct pavement so that emergency vehicles can access the area, and residents can access their homes.”
“The Federal Highway Administration is working closely with the U.S. Forest Service to make repairs and re-establish transportation services in Cherokee National Forest,” said Federal Highway Administrator Shailen Bhatt. “This funding is an initial down payment toward the cost of repairs to help authorities get the work done as quickly as possible.”
As a result of the flooding, many of the forest’s public roads were damaged and are currently impassable by “standard passenger vehicles” according to a release from FHWA. The damage is so extensive that emergency vehicles and utility crews are unable to access the forest to make essential repairs. Additionally, private homeowners in the Cherokee National Forest are unable to access their property and are experiencing difficulty in evacuating the area.
The “quick release” Emergency Relief funds are used to help restore essential transportation. FHWA said that additional funds will be needed to repair damages in Cherokee National Forest “will be supported by the Emergency Relief program through nationwide funding allocations.”
The flooding also caused damage in the Tellico Plains area, with the region under a boil water advisory for several days. Furthermore, a part of the Cherohala Skyway was washed out due to the flooding. The skyway has since been repaired.