Governor Paul LePage announced Friday, Sept. 2 the approval to send troops from the Maine National Guard to Vermont to help with the clean-up of Hurricane Irene.

LePage approved a request under the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, a nationwide system through which states affected by disasters can receive additional resources. The governor’s office made the announcement in a press release.

Maine deployed 200 Army National Guard engineers Saturday morning, Sept. 3 from Belfast and Auburn for eight days to Rutland, Vt. The unit is primarily assisting with removing debris that was left in the wake of Hurricane Irene, as well as earth-moving operations.

Also, six members of the Maine Air National Guard’s 265th Combat Communications Squadron out of South Portland have deployed to provide communications support.

“Our neighbors to the West are in need of our assistance and the Maine National Guard is ready, willing and able to help,” said LePage, in the press release. ‘It is during these times of natural disasters our servicemembers rise to the occasion and give their support to those who need it most. I am proud of our men and women. I wish them the best during this deployment and a safe return home.”

The Emergency Management Assistance Compact was signed into public law in 1996 and all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands have enacted legislation to become EMAC members, according to the press release from the governor’s office. EMAC was designed to establish a firm legal foundation for states to support one another.

Maine has stepped up to help other states by providing personnel and resources on several occasions, including sending responders to Louisiana and Mississippi in 2005 following Hurricane Katrina.

The estimated costs associated with this deployment, including personnel and equipment costs, will be approximately $1.5 million. The press release states that as part of the EMAC agreement, Vermont will reimburse Maine for expenses related to this deployment.

National Guard troops from other states have joined in the effort in Vermont, too. A press release issued Sept. 6 said soldiers from Connecticut, Illinois, New Hampshire, Ohio, South Carolina and Virginia are also helping out.

“We’re just so thrilled that the National Guard has come through [in] this way so quickly, and we’re looking forward to getting to the end of this,” said Brian Searles, Vermont’s secretary of transportation, in the Sept. 6 press release. Searles said he doesn’t believe Vermont could get done what it needs to accomplish without the assistance of National Guard troops.

The Sept. 6 press release stated: “… widespread damage to [Vermont’s] road system has left many residents separated from jobs and outside services, making it imperative the highways are as passable as fast as possible. The fall leaf season that normally draws thousands of tourists [to Vermont] and the winter ski season — both important to the state’s economy — are also imminent.”

Maine’s National Guard troops responded to Vermont’s request for assistance within 36 hours, according to the press release, and brought 169 pieces of heavy engineering equipment, ranging from bulldozers to dump trucks to excavators.

“The Maine National Guard feels incredibly honored to assist in the recovery operation to the people of Vermont, overcoming these serious infrastructure damages,” said Army Lt. Col. Normand Michaud, commander of Maine’s 133rd Engineer Battalion, in the Sept. 6 press release.

Searles, a 59-year Vermont resident, said this is the biggest event he’s seen in the Green Mountain State in his lifetime.

“We had record snowfall, so we had snow pack higher than normal. Then we had record rains in late April, almost through the entire month of May,” he explained. “We had a record lake level, so we lost three- or four hundred homes on Lake Champlain. And then we followed it up with the hurricane — or tropical storm by the time it got to us — so this is an unprecedented event.”