FEMA says salt water had to touch trees

Published 5:12 pm Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Federal Emergency Management Agency now says only trees that were actually touched by salt water during Hurricane Katrina would be considered for removal.

Jackson County Supervisor John McKay said Monday that is a change from guidelines issued earlier in which FEMA said trees in surge zones only could possibly qualify for federal funding for removal.

“It has nothing to do with flood zones. It is inundated areas only,” said McKay. “So, the rules have changed again.”

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McKay said he expected about 500 trees would qualify for federal assistance as opposed to 10,000 predicted when the program was announced.

“They need to tell us what the rules are upfront so we don’t mislead people,” said McKay.

Eugene Brezany, public affairs officer for Federal Emergency Management Agency, said FEMA’s position has not waivered.

“If they are in the storm surge area — if the water inundated these trees and that is what killed them, that is the kind of tree we are hoping to fund the removal of,” he said.

“If the water didn’t get to the area in question, that tree is not going to qualify for removal and that is not changing any rules. We are going to be fair about this,” said Brezany.

McKay said signs were erected across the county stating standing dead trees in surge zones could qualify based on a FEMA inspection.

Sam Taylor, planner for Neel-Schaffer, the county’s debris monitor, said 500 property owners have signed fight of entry forms to determine whether a tree on their property would qualify.

The deadline for filing fight of entry forms is Dec. 1. Eligible trees must be removed by Feb. 28.