COLTON — Robert W. Bradish spent a few minutes Thursday morning, with the roaring Raquette River and his condemned restaurant in the background, explaining to a federal damage assessment team the nightmare he has been living for the last two weeks.
He and his wife, Tammy M., have owned the Finish Line Restaurant on Main Street for the last several years. The restaurant, which sits on a small island in the middle of the Raquette, was damaged as record-level waters eroded land around the island and shifted the building's foundation.
For Mr. Bradish, the restaurant is his sole employment. He wants to reopen the building soon, and said he hopes federal assistance can provide some funding to help him pay for repairs.
"This is my main source of income. This is what I do for work," Mr. Bradish said. "I don't have a side job. I can't get unemployment. The bills keep coming, but I don't have anything coming through."
The damage assessment team, composed of representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and U.S. Small Business Administration's Office of Disaster Assistance, toured several communities Thursday along the Raquette River. The group reviewed damaged properties in Colton, Hannawa Falls, Potsdam, Norwood and Norfolk.
The group, which included several St. Lawrence County emergency management officials, had a firsthand look at the damage. Severe flooding damaged dozens of homes and several businesses throughout St. Lawrence County.
"We like them to see as many properties as they can and the most damage possible," county Emergency Services Director Martin J. Hassett said. "We do have a wide geographic area to cover and not a lot of time to do it."
Federal officials collected preliminary damage estimates and will determine in the coming weeks whether the county could qualify for federal assistance, including grants and low-interest loans.
The county's initial estimate of $1 million likely will grow as waters continue to ebb, uncovering more damage, Mr. Hassett said.
The town of Colton estimated it had $800,000 in damage, with the village of Potsdam seeing about $200,000.
Colton town Supervisor Lawrence C. Patzwald said the federal government has strict criteria to qualify for assistance. People who own seasonal camps along the Raquette might not qualify because camps are not considered a primary residence, for example.
"I have tried to tell people from day one, don't necessarily expect that somebody is going to come through with money for you, because it might not be true," Mr. Patzwald said. "Don't get your hopes up, because it could be possible that we might not be eligible or you won't be eligible for anything. It could happen to some."
Another concern raised by town and county officials was the effect the floodwaters had on septic systems and wells. Town officials encouraged property owners to test wells or septic systems for possible contamination.
"It's still early to determine that damage, because some of the septic systems are still underwater," Mr. Patzwald said.
Mr. Hassett said property owners affected by floodwaters should contact their respective municipal offices to report the damage incurred.
Damage to the Finish Line could have been more extensive, but numerous volunteers and firefighters spent several days placing more than 3,000 sandbags around the foundation.
"If it wasn't for the volunteers and the fire departments ... this could have never gotten done," Mr. Bradish said.