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FEMA TO FUND WATERWAY DEBRIS REMOVAL
From Office of the Governor    GCN  11/22/05

Department of Marine Resources, Coast Guard Take Lead to Clear Waterways

A change in its original mission will enable the U.S. Coast Guard to remove all major waterborne debris from within the Mississippi Sound and coastal waterways south of Interstate 10, Gov. Haley Barbour said today.

Governor Barbour had sought the change, saying extensive debris left by Hurricane Katrina amounted to much more than the hazardous materials, such as batteries and fuel from submerged or sinking vessels, the Coast Guard had originally been authorized to clear. The debris consists of everything from submerged boats to trees, cars, and houses.

Barbour also said under an agreement reached with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the federal government will cover 100 percent of the costs until at least January 15.

"Clearing this debris is vital to the full recovery of the Mississippi Gulf Coast and critically important to ensuring navigational safety," Governor Barbour said. "I am pleased FEMA and the Coast Guard have recognized the need to assist the state in this manner, and I commend Dr. Bill Walker, executive director of the Department of Marine Resources, for his efforts to help achieve the agreement with FEMA."

DMR estimates there are between 1.5 to 2 million cubic yards of debris within the Mississippi Sound and contiguous coastal waterways. DMR is working with the Coast Guard, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Department of Interior, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Corps of Engineers, and FEMA to identify waterborne debris that is or has the potential to become a hazard to general public navigation, public safety, or public health. Once identified and marked, removal of the debris is likely to begin by mid-December.

"Clearing waterborne debris will be a monumental undertaking that involves resources that the state doesn't have. It's not only important to public safety, but also to ensure the integrity and functionality of our coastal ecosystem," Walker said.

FEMA already provides 100 percent federally-funded assistance to remove inland debris, work being done by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and private contractors selected by local governments. This new agreement will extend those same clean-up efforts to waterways to remove waterborne debris not included in the original mission of the Coast Guard, Governor Barbour said.

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