Gulf Watch: FEMA's plans to clean waterway debris from 2005 hurricanes, but not from the 2008 hurricanes, leave many baffled

reports, FEMA has plans in place to only begin to clean up the debris from the 2005 hurricanes:
Under an agreement inked between FEMA and the Coast Guard last fall, the federal government would pay to remove remnants of houses, cars and boats still littering hundreds of miles of state waterways after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. But as the cleanup now begins, the state is being told that additional underwater debris from Hurricanes Gustav and Ike will not be included in that project.
The debris and wreckage associated with Gustav and Ike will have to be removed separately by local authorities, who must then apply to FEMA for reimbursements. The largest problem in this arrangement is obvious: how do tell what trash belongs to which hurricane? In some areas, such as Grand Isle and Terrebonne Parish, debris from both storm seasons has become inseparable, according to the Times-Picayune. This places an additional burden on local officials to find ways to segregate 2005 hurricane trash from that of 2008.

FEMA maintains that since the original marine debris removal plan called for removing obstructions generated by the 2005 hurricanes, then that's all that FEMA will remove because that's where the line for direct federal financing is drawn. But local officials in coastal parishes remain flummoxed by this red-tape. State officials say drawing distinctions between marine debris from two hurricane seasons creates a more cumbersome process and a bigger financial burden, reports the Times-Picayune.

Louisiana Recovery Authority Director Paul Rainwater sent a letter to FEMA, arguing that not consolidating the clean up "will result in additional costs to taxpayers for duplicate mobilization and administration; two programs removing the same kinds of debris, in the same locations, at the same time is clearly inefficient and will generate additional burdens on the state and parish administrators working alongside the Coast Guard."

According to the Time-Picayune:
In many cases, contractors would be leaving behind debris that is within feet of the "eligible" Katrina-Rita objects, said Leo Richardson, the state marine debris coordinator for the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.

"So we should start all over again, spin up a whole new group of people that FEMA is going to pay for ... go out and survey the same waters, come up with the same information and put it out for bids?" Richardson asked. "It takes a whole lot of public money, state and federal, to go duplicate all this."
Many Gulf Coast residents fear that FEMA's bureaucratic red tape may slow down the recovery once again. As the Times-Picayune reports, FEMA only agreed to pick up the remaining 2005 debris after considerable pressure from state recovery officials and local civic groups. Many people in Texas are now worried that FEMA's bureaucratic sluggishness and delays will also prevent timely cleanup from the most recent hurricanes. Local officials and residents in Texas already report that FEMA has been much too slow in getting aid to those whose lives and property were upended by Ike and Gustav.

(Photo of Galveston debris from the FEMA photo library)