FEMA agrees to provide additional aid to remove marine debris

Published 10:24 pm Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said Friday it would provide additional aid to Louisiana to clean up debris littering state waterways. However, the amount of aid, the scope of the cleanup and the timetable for completing the work has yet to be determined.

Ronnie Simpson, a FEMA spokesman, said the U.S. Coast Guard and others are set to meet next week to develop a scope of work. Surveys being done by the Coast Guard are to form the basis for which additional eligible debris deemed to pose immediate threats to public health and safety and the environment is removed.

Marine debris may include things like boats, trees, clogging vegetation or other types of wreckage. Since hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, FEMA says the federal government has spent more than $150 million cleaning up marine debris in the state.

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The Louisiana Recovery Authority has asked FEMA to “completely fund” the debris removal program, including reimbursing state and local agencies that paid to cleanup state waterways on their own.

The LRA has complained that Louisiana wasn’t treated like Mississippi and Alabama in FEMA’s handling of marine debris removal efforts, and this summer said tractor trailers, refrigerators and storm-damaged houses littered waterways, creating potential hazards. FEMA has denied that Louisiana was treated differently.

Andy Kopplin, LRA’s executive director, called FEMA’s announcement Friday “a small but significant step forward.”

“We are pleased that after 26 months FEMA has finally agreed to extend its interagency agreement with the Coast Guard and begin scoping,” he said in a statement. “But many of the specifics are still yet to be addressed and, as they say, the devil is in the details.”