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Hurricane Katrina

Policies that Affected Intensity of Katrina Impact

Project: Hurricane Katrina
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During the 75-year period between 1930 and 2005, more than 1.2 million acres of Louisiana’s coastal wetlands disappear. From 1932 to 1956, Louisiana loses 9,600 acres (15 sq. miles) of wetlands per year. The rate peaks between the years 1956 and 1978 at 26,000 acres (41 sq. miles) per year and then declines, falling to 20,000 acres (31 sq. miles) per year during the 1978-1983 period, and 16,000 acres (25 sq. miles) per year between 1983 and 1990. [Wicker, 1980 pdf file; Dunbar, Britsch, and Kemp, 1992; Barras, Bourgeois, and Handle, 1/1994; Barras et al., 2004 pdf file] After state and federal governments initiate a coastal restoration program in 1990 (see November 29, 1990) at a total cost of more than $400 million, the rate decreases to about 15,300 acres (24 sq. miles) per year. [Barras et al., 2004 pdf file] The decades of wetlands loss brings the Gulf Coast 30 miles closer to New Orleans; so by 2005, only about 20 miles remain between the below-sea-level city and the Gulf waters. [Houston Business Journal, 7/11/2003] Studies have projected that Louisiana’s coast will continue to lose land at a rate of about 6,600 acres per year (10 sq. miles) over the next 50 years, [Barras et al., 2004 pdf file] resulting in another 1000 square miles of wetlands being lost, an area almost equivalent in size to the state of Rhode Island. [Louisiana Coastal Wetlands Conservation and Restoration Task Force and Wetlands Conservation and Restoration Authority, 1998] The net loss of Louisiana’s coastal wetlands has been attributed to several factors, including the maintenance of shipping lanes, the dredging of canals, construction of flood control levees, and the withdrawal of oil and gas. [Environmental Protection Agency and Louisiana Geological Survey, 4/1987 pdf file; National Wetlands Research Center, 9/20/2005] The US Corps of Engineer’s flood control system of levees and dams is considered to be a major cause of wetlands destruction, as it prevents the Mississippi River from depositing sediment that is needed to sustain the wetlands. The oil and gas industry is also responsible for the net loss of wetlands. Thousands of canals for pipelines and drilling rigs are plowed during this period, often by the US Army Corps of Engineers, creating a scarred landscape and eroding the marshlands year after year. [Environmental Protection Agency and Louisiana Geological Survey, 4/1987 pdf file; Times-Picayune, 7/26/2002; Houston Business Journal, 7/11/2003] A study in 1982 estimated that as much as 90 percent of Louisiana’s land loss can be attributed to canals. [Turner, Costanza, and Scaife, 1982 pdf file] Furthermore, the extraction of oil and gas from beneath the Louisiana coast is believed (see 2002) to have increased the rate of subsidence, a term used to describe the phenomena whereby land slowly sinks. [Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies, 2002 pdf file] Other causes of wetland destruction include wave erosion, land reclamation, and rising sea levels. [Environmental Protection Agency and Louisiana Geological Survey, 4/1987 pdf file] Louisiana’s coast is a vitally important ecosystem and natural feature. It makes up about 40 percent of all US coastal wetlands and provides over-wintering habitat for 70 percent of the migratory birds that come down the Central and Mississippi flyways. [Environmental Protection Agency and Louisiana Geological Survey, 4/1987 pdf file; Louisiana Coastal Wetlands Conservation and Restoration Task Force and Wetlands Conservation and Restoration Authority, 1998; US Army Corp of Engineers, 11/8/2004] The wetlands and barrier islands (some 80 percent of these islands are lost during this period) serve as a natural protective barrier against hurricanes by reducing the size of storm surges. [Environmental Protection Agency and Louisiana Geological Survey, 4/1987 pdf file; Houston Business Journal, 7/11/2003; van Heerden, 2004] The region is also of vital importance to the US economy. By the late 1990s, the region contributes 30 percent by weight of the total commercial fisheries harvest in the continental US; 18 percent of US oil production; and 24 percent of US gas production. Louisiana’s ports outrank all other US ports in total shipping tonnage. [Louisiana Coastal Wetlands Conservation and Restoration Task Force and Wetlands Conservation and Restoration Authority, 1998; US Army Corp of Engineers, 11/8/2004]

Category Tags: Before Katrina, Coastal Wetlands, Land Development, Federal, Private Sector, Environmental Policies/Programs

Congress passes the Breaux Act, formally called The Coast Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act (CWPPRA), establishing a task force charged with planning and prioritizing wetland restoration projects that would then be sent to Congress to be included as part of the president’s annual budget submission. CWPPRA specifies that 70 percent of its authorized funds must go to Louisiana restoration projects; 15 percent to the Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program, a program that provides federal funds to restoration projects in other coastal states; and 15 percent to North American Wetlands Conservation Act projects. All projects funded under the terms of this act will require non-federal matching contributions. [US Code Vol. 16, secs. 3952-3956] Louisiana will generate its portion of funding for projects though taxes on fishing equipment, small engine, and motorboat fuels, as well as import duties. The act is set to expire in 2009 [National Wetlands Research Center, 9/20/2005] , but will be renewed at least until 2019. [ESA Policy News Update, 10/15/2004] By 2004, some $400 million will have been spent on coastal restoration projects as part of the program [van Heerden, 2004] , resulting in at least 52,000 acres being created, restored, or protected. [Louisiana Coastal Area Study, 7/2004 pdf file]

Entity Tags: US Congress, The Coast Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act of 1990

Category Tags: Before Katrina, Federal, Coastal Wetlands, Environmental Policies/Programs, Legislation

After flooding from a massive rainstorm kills six people in New Orleans, Congress authorizes the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project (SELA). Part of the SELA Project involves strengthening the levee and water pumping systems throughout the greater New Orleans metropolitan area. [Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 9/1/2005] The project is expected to take 10 years [Los Angeles Times, 9/4/2005] , but chronic funding shortages will prevent its completion before Hurricane Katrina strikes in 2005 (see 2001-Early 2004).

Entity Tags: Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, US Congress

Category Tags: Federal, Flood Control Programs, Before Katrina

The US Army Corps of Engineers works on the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project (SELA) spending $430 million to shore up the levee system in the greater New Orleans area and build pumping stations. Local governments contribute $50 million, or about 12 percent. [Editor & Publisher, 8/31/2005]

Entity Tags: US Army Corps of Engineers, Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project

Category Tags: Flood Control Programs, Federal, Before Katrina

FEMA director James Lee Witt announces Project Impact, under which FEMA will foster partnerships between federal, state, and local emergency workers, as well as local businesses, to help individual communities reduce their vulnerability to certain types of natural disasters. Describing the new initiative, FEMA Director James Lee Witt says, “Our goal, starting with this summit, is to change the way America prevents and prepares for disasters. We’ve got to break the damage-repair-damage-repair cycle.” Project Impact is part of a broader mitigation program aimed at reducing the $14 billion in federal dollars spent annually on disaster relief. Witt says that prevention is necessary because of the apparent increased severity and frequency of natural disasters. [San Francisco Chronicle, 10/15/1997; Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004] Project Impact becomes the agency’s highest profile program. “In Seattle, Washington, for example, the grants [are] used to retrofit schools, bridges, and houses at risk from earthquakes. In Pascagoula, Mississippi, the project [funds] the creation of a database of structures in the local flood plain—crucial information for preparing mitigation plans. In several eastern North Carolina communities, it [helps] fund and coordinate buyouts of houses in flood-prone areas.” [Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004]

Entity Tags: James Lee Witt, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Project Impact

Category Tags: Federal: FEMA, Disaster Mitigation, Before Katrina

The State of Louisiana, the US Army Corps of Engineers, federal agencies, local governments, academics, and local community groups work together to develop a comprehensive restoration plan aimed at rebuilding Louisiana’s coastal wetlands. The plan, named “Coast 2050: Toward a Sustainable Coast,” outlines more than 80 restoration concepts that will serve as the basis for the more technical “Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) Comprehensive Coastwide Study” that will eventually be submitted to the White House in 2004 (see October 2003). The Coast 2050 plan is a direct outgrowth of lessons learned from implementation of restoration projects under the Breaux Act (see November 29, 1990) and reflects a growing recognition that a more comprehensive systemic approach is needed. It is estimated that the Coast 2050 plan would cost $14 billion over the next 30 years to implement and require an annual budget of $470 million. It would restore natural drainage along Louisiana’s coast and direct the movement of sediment from the Mississippi to rebuild marshes. One of the plan’s strategies would be to install sediment traps at key locations in the river, from where sediment would be pumped through 100-mile long pipelines to rebuild wetlands and barrier islands. [Louisiana Coastal Wetlands Conservation and Restoration Task Force and Wetlands Conservation and Restoration Authority, 1998; Louisiana Coastal Area Study, 1/2003 pdf file; Civil Engineering, 6/2003; Louisiana Coastal Area Study, 7/2004 pdf file; Civil Engineering, 7/2004; USA Today, 8/30/2005] The Coast 2050 plan is endorsed by all 20 Louisiana coastal parishes, the federal Breaux Act (CWPPRA) Task Force, the State Wetlands Authority, and various environmental organizations, including the Coalition to Save Coastal Louisiana. “This approval is unprecedented,” says the Louisiana Coastal Area website. [National Wetlands Research Center, 9/20/2005]

Entity Tags: Louisiana State Wetlands Authority, CWPPRA Task Force, Coast 2050: Toward a Sustainable Coast, US Army Corps of Engineers

Category Tags: Federal, Louisiana: State, Academia/Professional, NGOs, Environmental Policies/Programs, Coastal Wetlands, Before Katrina

Congress rejects a proposal to increase federal funding for hurricane-related research from $5 million to $150 million a year. (Congress provides over $100 million for earthquake-related research during this period.) [Advocate (Baton Rouge), 1/23/2003]

Entity Tags: US Congress

Category Tags: Federal, Disaster Mitigation, Before Katrina, Resource Allocation

The fiscal year 2001 federal flood control budget for southeastern Louisiana is $69 million. [Knight Ridder, 9/1/2005]

Category Tags: Flood Control Programs, Federal, Before Katrina

Between 2001 and 2005, the US Army Corps of Engineers requests $496 million to strengthen the 300-mile levee system protecting the low-elevation greater New Orleans area from the waters of the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain. The Bush administration responds to these requests by proposing a $166 million budget. Congress approves a $250 million budget. [Reuters, 9/1/2005; Los Angeles Times, 9/4/2005]

Entity Tags: US Army Corps of Engineers, Bush administration (43)

Category Tags: Flood Control Programs, Federal, Before Katrina, Resource Allocation

As a result of heavy cuts to the US Army Corps of Engineer’s Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project (SELA), work slows down to a trickle. In early 2004, the Corps stops awarding contracts, putting several projects on hold. . [New Orleans CityBusiness, 2/7/2005; Los Angeles Times, 9/4/2005]

Entity Tags: Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project

Category Tags: Flood Control Programs, Federal, Before Katrina, Resource Allocation

President Bush appoints Joseph M. Allbaugh, a longtime Bush aide, to serve as the director of FEMA. In his new role, Allbaugh will coordinate “federal disaster relief activities on behalf of President Bush, including the Federal Response Plan that authorizes the response and recovery operations of 28 federal agencies and departments and the American Red Cross.” Additionally, he will oversee the National Flood Insurance Program and the US Fire Administration and initiate proactive mitigation activities to reduce loss of life and property from all types of hazards. Allbaugh will manage FEMA’s annual budget of about $3 billion, about 2,500 permanent federal employees, and 4,500 temporary disaster assistance employees. Allbaugh has served Bush in the past. He was “the governor’s point person for nine presidential disaster declarations and more than 20 state-level emergencies.” Allbaugh also served as Bush’s national campaign manager for the 2000 election and as the campaign manager for Bush’s first run for Texas governor in 1994. He also served as Governor Bush’s Chief of Staff. Along with Bush’s longtime aides, Karen Hughes and Karl Rove, Allbaugh is known as one of the three members of Bush’s so-called “iron triangle.” [Fire Chief Magazine, 3/1/2005; Federal Emergency Management Agency, 9/16/2005]

Entity Tags: Joseph M. Allbaugh, George W. Bush

Category Tags: Federal, Federal: FEMA, Political Patronage, Before Katrina

After Congress approves the Bush administration’s proposal to terminate Project Impact (see October 14, 1997-2001), FEMA institutes a new program under which pre-disaster mitigation (PDMs) grants are awarded on a competitive basis. Critics, such as the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA), say that under the competitive based program, lower income communities will not be able to effectively compete with higher income areas. [Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004]

Entity Tags: Federal Emergency Management Agency, Project Impact, Bush administration (43)

Category Tags: Federal: FEMA, Disaster Mitigation, Before Katrina, Louisiana: NOLA, Louisiana: SELA, Resource Allocation

The Bush administration’s proposed fiscal year 2002 budget includes a dramatic cut in federal funding for hazard mitigation grants, reducing the federal-state cost-sharing formula from 75/25 to 50/50. Mitigation grants allow localities to prepare for anticipated disasters by building levees and floodwalls, moving homes out of flood plains, and/or strengthening structures at risk from floods, earthquakes or other natural disasters. The Bush administration asserts that by making states pay more, they will spend the funds more wisely. “Shouldering a larger share of the costs will help to ensure that states select truly cost effective projects, an incentive that is missing if most of the funding is provided by FEMA,” the budget proposal reads. The proposed budget also eliminates FEMA’s Project Impact, the popular $25 million model mitigation program implemented during the Clinton administration in 1997 (see October 14, 1997-2001). Bush officials say the project, which has been launched in 250 cities and towns, “has not proven effective.” Additionally, the Bush administration proposes to eliminate $12 million from the National Flood Insurance Program budget by $12 million by denying coverage for thousands of “repetitive loss” properties in flood plains. [Office of Management and Budget, 2/27/2001, pp. 81 pdf file; Washington Post, 5/8/2001] A repetitive loss property is one that has suffered flood damage two or more times over a 10-year period and for which repair costs exceed more than 25 percent of its market value. [FEMA, 10/22/2004] White House spokesman Scott Stanzel explains that proposed cuts to these and other federal emergency management programs are part of “an ongoing effort to shift control and responsibility to the states and give them more flexibility.” [Washington Post, 5/8/2001] Jack Harrald, director of the Institute for Crisis, Disaster and Risk Management at George Washington University, says in an interview with the Washington Post that Bush administration officials “clearly are disassociating themselves from programs closely identified with the previous administration. Whether a broader philosophical process is going on is not entirely clear yet, but I suspect it is.” [Washington Post, 5/8/2001] Congress will reject the administration’s proposal to reduce the 75/50 cost-sharing formula, but agree to end Project Impact. [Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004]

Entity Tags: Scott Stanzel, Jack Harrald, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Bush administration (43), Project Impact

Category Tags: Disaster Mitigation, Federal, Before Katrina, Resource Allocation

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) submits written testimony to Congress, recommending that it reject certain budget cuts proposed by the Bush administration for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and FEMA. The administration’s proposed $3.3 billion budget for drinking-water and wastewater infrastructure is “totally inadequate,” according to the ASCE. Over the next 20 years, America’s water and wastewater systems need to increase funding by an annual $23 billion, just to meet the existing national environmental and public health priorities in the Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act and to replace aging and failing infrastructure, the ASCE reports, noting that in it’s recently released 2001 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, “the drinking water and wastewater categories each received a grade of D.” The ASCE also tells Congress to reject the Bush administration’s proposal to eliminate Project Impact, a $25 million model mitigation program created by the Clinton administration in 1997 (see February 27, 2001) (see October 14, 1997-2001). “Project Impact is a nationwide public-private partnership designed to help communities become more disaster resistant. These types of natural hazard mitigation efforts are precisely what Congress should be funding, in an effort to avoid paying the much higher price after a tornado, earthquake or hurricane hits a local community. ASCE recommends that Congress fully fund Project Impact at the fiscal year 2001 appropriated level of $25 million.” [American Society of Civil Engineers, 3/21/2001 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Federal Emergency Management Agency, American Society of Civil Engineers, Environmental Protection Agency, Bush administration (43), Project Impact

Category Tags: Disaster Mitigation, NGOs, Federal, Before Katrina, Resource Allocation, Mitigation

FEMA Director Joe M. Allbaugh appears before Congress to discuss his agency’s goals and priorities for fiscal year 2002. A chief priority is to reduce the federal government’s role in disaster mitigation and prevention, which, he asserts is “inherently grassroots.” He explains: “These activities involve local decision-making about zoning, building codes, and strategy planning to meet a community’s unique needs. It is not the role of the federal government to tell a community what it needs to do to protect its citizens and infrastructure.… At the same time we are giving more control to state and local governments through the Managing State concept of the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program and other initiatives, we are asking that they take a more appropriate degree of fiscal responsibility to protect themselves. The original intent of federal disaster assistance is to supplement state and local response efforts. Many are concerned that federal disaster assistance may have evolved into both an oversized entitlement program and a disincentive to effective state and local risk management. Expectations of when the federal government should be involved and the degree of involvement may have ballooned beyond what is an appropriate level. We must restore the predominant role of state and local response to most disasters. Federal assistance needs to supplement, not supplant, state and local efforts.… FEMA is looking at ways to develop meaningful and objective criteria for disaster declarations that can be applied consistently. These criteria will not preclude the president’s discretion but will help states better understand when they can reasonably turn to the federal government for assistance and when it would be more appropriate for the state to handle the disaster itself.” Allbaugh also discusses how FEMA will bring Bush’s compassionate conservatism to disaster survivors. “President Bush’s compassionate conservatism is a hallmark of his core philosophy,” Allbaugh states. “The president is promoting faith-based organizations as a way to achieve compassionate conservatism. Not only does FEMA work with… faith-based organizations…, but FEMA’s Emergency Food and Shelter Program is the original faith-based initiative and is a perfect fit with President Bush’s new approach to helping the poor, homeless and disadvantaged. Through this program, FEMA works with organizations that are based in the communities where people need help the most.” [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 5/16/2001; Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004]

Entity Tags: Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, Federal Emergency Management Agency, George W. Bush, Joseph M. Allbaugh

Category Tags: FEMA Restructuring, Federal: FEMA, Mitigation, Disaster Mitigation, Before Katrina

Governor Mike Foster (R-LA) endorses the Coast 2050 plan (see December 1998) to spend $14 billion over a 20 to 30-year period to rebuild Louisiana’s coastal wetlands as a means of protecting the mainland from the full destructive force of a major hurricane. [Chronicle of Higher Education, 4/26/2002]

Entity Tags: Coast 2050: Toward a Sustainable Coast, Ivor Van Heerden

Category Tags: Before Katrina, Louisiana: State, Flood Risk, Environmental Policies/Programs, Coastal Wetlands

The US Army Corp of Engineers’ budget for hurricane protection for the Lake Pontchartrain vicinity is at $14.25 million. [Knight Ridder, 9/1/2005]

Category Tags: Flood Control Programs, Federal, Before Katrina

Former petroleum geologist Bob Morton, now with the US Geological Survey, concludes in a paper that the oil and gas industry’s extraction of millions of barrels of oil, trillions of cubic feet of natural gas, and tens of millions of barrels of saline formation water lying with the petroleum deposits has caused a reduction in subsurface pressure causing underground faults to slip and the land above to subside. “Subsidence rates in coastal Louisiana associated with natural compaction and dewatering of Holocene deltaic sediments should decrease with time; therefore historical rates of delta plain subsidence that accelerate and typically exceed geological subsidence rates are most likely influenced by anthropogenic activities, such as subsurface fluid extraction.” [Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies, 2002 pdf file; National Geographic, 10/2004] The oil industry and its consultants dispute Morton’s theory, but fail to disprove it. If Morton is correct, any restoration efforts in the area could fail as they would be unable to offset the high rates of subsidence. [National Geographic, 10/2004]

Entity Tags: Bob Morton

Category Tags: Before Katrina, Coastal Wetlands, Land Development, Environmental Policies/Programs

The Bush administration proposes to reduce the US Army Corps of Engineers’ fiscal year 2003 budget by 10 percent, from $4.6 to $4.175 billion. (The Corps requested more than $6 billion.) [Clarion Ledger, 3/7/2002]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), US Army Corps of Engineers

Category Tags: Flood Control Programs, Federal, Before Katrina, Resource Allocation

Mitch Daniels, director of the Office of Management and Budget, writes in a memo to President Bush, complaining about Assistant Secretary of the Army Mike Parker’s testimony opposing the administration’s proposed budget cuts (see February 27, 2002). Daniels complains that Parker’s testimony “reads badly… on the printed page,” and that “Parker. . . is distancing [himself] actively from the administration.” [Government Executive, 9/1/2005]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Mitch Daniels

Category Tags: Political Patronage, Federal, Before Katrina

Secretary of the Army Mike Parker, a former Mississippi senator, testifies before the Senate Budget Committee and criticizes the Bush administration’s proposal to reduce the Army Corps of Engineer’s fiscal year 2003 budget by 10 percent. According to Parker, the proposed cuts would affect several of the Corps projects including two flood control projects in southeast Louisiana. These two projects, the Yazoo Pumps and the Big Sunflower River Dredging, would be reduced from a combined $9 million in fiscal year 2002 to $565,000 for fiscal year 2003. Parker asserts that the proposed cuts would also force the Corps to cancel $190 million in already-contracted projects and will result in 4,500 lost jobs. His comments to the committee indicate a dissatisfaction with the Bush administration’s priorities. “After being in the administration and dealing with them, I still don’t have warm and fuzzy feelings for them. I’m hoping that OMB (White House Office of Management and Budget) understands we’re at the beginning of the process. If the corps is limited in what it does for the American people, there will be a negative impact.” [Clarion Ledger, 3/7/2002; Washington Post, 3/7/2002; Reuters, 9/1/2005]

Entity Tags: Mike Parker, Big Sunflower River Dredging, US Army Corps of Engineers, Yazoo Pumps

Category Tags: Flood Control Programs, Flood Risk, Federal, Before Katrina, Resource Allocation, Warnings

Scientists, environmental groups, and the US Army Corps of Engineers work together on a comprehensive technical plan to rebuild Louisiana’s disappearing coastal wetlands. The plan aims to “provide a sustainable coastal ecosystem with the essential functions, assets, and values of the natural ecosystem.”The Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) Comprehensive Ecosystem Restoration Study, as it is called, incorporates the restoration concepts outlined in the 1998 Coast 2050 plan (see December 1998). The LCA study, unlike the Coast 2050 plan, provides the scientific and technical analyses and engineering details that Congress will use to decide if the project meets congressional requirements necessary to secure WRDA authorization. WRDA, or the Water Resources Development Act, provides federal authorization for water resources projects. The team hopes to submit a Chief’s Report by June 2004 so that the plan can be included as a funded action item in the WRDA legislation currently pending in Congress. [Louisiana Coastal Area Study, 1/2003 pdf file; Associated Press, 1/29/2004; Associated Press, 2/3/2004; Louisiana Coastal Area Study, 4/2004 pdf file; Louisiana Coastal Area Study, 7/2004 pdf file; National Geographic, 10/2004]

Entity Tags: US Army Corps of Engineers, Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) Ecosystem Restoration Study

Category Tags: Before Katrina, Federal, Academia/Professional, NGOs, Environmental Policies/Programs, Coastal Wetlands

FEMA publishes a report on the agency’s flood mitigation efforts in Louisiana. In the introduction, FEMA notes the state’s extreme vulnerability to flooding. “In a sense, Louisiana is the flood plain of the nation, Louisiana waterways drain two-thirds of the continental United States. Precipitation in New York, the Dakotas, even Idaho and the Province of Alberta, finds its way to Louisiana’s coastline. Despite massive improvements to reduce the impacts of severe weather in the last 100 years, flooding is a constant threat. The state of Louisiana has more flood insurance claims than any other state in the country.” FEMA’s report also says that Louisiana has more than 18,000 repetitively flooded structures, more than any other state. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 3/5/2002; Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004] A repetitive loss structure is one that has suffered flood damage two or more times over a 10-year period and for which repair costs exceed 25 percent of its market value. [FEMA, 10/22/2004]

Entity Tags: Federal Emergency Management Agency

Category Tags: Federal: FEMA, Flood Risk, Disaster Mitigation, Before Katrina

Mike Parker, assistant secretary of the Army, resigns shortly after testifying against the Bush administration’s proposed cuts to the Army Corps of Engineer’s fiscal year 2003 budget, including flood control projects in southeastern Louisiana (see February 27, 2002). According to White House officials, Parker has been forced out by the Bush administration, “as a clear sign that the president will not tolerate open defiance by his appointees.” As an unnamed Bush administration official interviewed by the Washington Post, makes clear, “Either you’re on the president’s team or you’re not.” [Clarion Ledger, 3/7/2002; Washington Post, 3/7/2002]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), Mike Parker

Category Tags: Political Patronage, Flood Control Programs, Before Katrina

The Louisiana Board of Regents approves a $3.7 million grant to fund a five-year study intended to learn more about New Orleans’ hurricane risk. The newly-formed LSU Center for the Study of Public Health Impacts of Hurricanes will manage the project. Ivor van Heerden, deputy director of the LSU Hurricane Center, will serve as the project’s head. The project will consider and evaluate possible hurricane scenarios in an attempt to predict the impact of a hurricane strike, the preparations that should be made to prepare for such a strike, and post-disaster recovery. It will also work with health experts to develop plans for dealing with the anticipated health crisis that would result if the city were to flood. The project will employ the use of the LSU Hurricane Center’s supercomputer, SuperMike, to generate computer-based hurricane path and impact prediction models. “Once complete, the model can be applied to other sites nationally and internationally and to other disasters such as tornadoes, chemical spills, or terrorist attacks,” LSU Research reports. [Advocate (Baton Rouge), 4/21/2002; LSU Research, 12/2004] The project’s progress, however, will be impeded by it limited funds (see April 2002-2005).

Entity Tags: Ivor Van Heerden, LSU Hurricane Center, LSU Center for the Study of Public Health Impacts of Hurricanes

Category Tags: Flood Control Programs, Academia/Professional, Public Safety Risk, Flood Risk, Environmental Risk, Recovery, Response, Louisiana: State, Before Katrina

Efforts by a group of scientists at the LSU Hurricane Center to develop a computer model that can predict the public health impacts of a major hurricane hitting New Orleans (see (April 2002)) are hindered by the group’s relatively small $3.7 million budget. “The earthquake community gets over $100 million a year for research from the federal government through the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program that was started in the 1970s, while the federal investment for hurricane and wind damage is only less than $5 million—even though hurricanes cause more dollar damage and kill far more people year in and year out than earthquakes do,” says Marc Levitan, director of the LSU Hurricane Center. Notwithstanding its limited funding, by early 2002, the “computer model… has 60 layers of information for such a disastrous scenario, and the Hurricane Center is still accumulating information.” [Advocate (Baton Rouge), 4/21/2002; Advocate (Baton Rouge), 1/23/2003]

Entity Tags: Marc Levitan, LSU Hurricane Center

Category Tags: Academia/Professional, Response, Resource Allocation, Before Katrina

In a memo to FEMA Director Joe M. Allbaugh, the agency’s inspector general relays concerns over the Bush administration’s proposal to merge FEMA, along with several other agencies, into the newly-constituted new Department of Homeland Security. “There are concerns of FEMA losing its identity as an agency that is quick to respond to all hazards and disasters,” the inspector general writes. [Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004]

Entity Tags: Joseph M. Allbaugh, Federal Emergency Management Agency, US Department of Homeland Security

Category Tags: Federal, Federal: FEMA, FEMA Restructuring, Organization Capacity, Before Katrina

The Brookings Institution publishes a report warning that merging FEMA into the Department of Homeland Security will harm the agency’s capability to respond to natural disasters. “While a merged FEMA might become highly adept at preparing for and responding to terrorism, it would likely become less effective in performing its current mission in case of natural disasters as time, effort and attention are inevitably diverted to other tasks within the larger organization.” [Daalder et al., 7/2002 pdf file; Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004]

Entity Tags: US Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Brookings Institution

Category Tags: FEMA Restructuring, Warnings, Organization Capacity, NGOs, Before Katrina

FEMA grants $89.5 million in pre-disaster mitigation (PDM) grants to communities in more than 40 different states, possessions, and other territories. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 7/18/2005] PDM grant requests from Louisiana—which has parishes that have more repetitive loss structures than any parish [or county] in the country [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 3/5/2002] —are denied. [Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004; Gambit Weekly, 9/28/2004] A repetitive loss structure is one that has suffered flood damage two or more times over a 10-year period and for which repair costs will exceed 25 percent of its market value. [FEMA, 10/22/2004]

Entity Tags: Federal Emergency Management Agency

Category Tags: Federal, Disaster Mitigation, Before Katrina, Louisiana: NOLA, Louisiana: SELA, Resource Allocation

The Bush administration’s proposed fiscal year 2004 budget includes $297 million for civil works projects in the US Army Corps of Engineers’ New Orleans district. (Congress will later allocate an additional $40 million.) [New Orleans CityBusiness, 2/16/2004] Only $3 million of this amount is slated for New Orleans’ East Bank Hurricane Levee project. According to Al Naomi, the US Army Corps of Engineers’ project manager, $11 million is needed. (Congress ultimately approves $5.5 million.) [Times-Picayune, 6/8/2004] As a result of the project’s reduced budget, work on the levee system wil halt for the first time in 37 years in June 2004 (see (June 2004)).

Entity Tags: Al Naomi, Bush administration (43), US Army Corps of Engineers

Category Tags: Flood Control Programs, Federal, Resource Allocation, Before Katrina

The Bush administration announces a policy directive and proposed rulemaking that would significantly restrict the scope of the Clean Water Act, removing as much as 20 percent, or 20 million acres, of the country’s wetlands from federal jurisdiction. Officials claim the measures are necessary in order to comply with a 2001 Supreme Court decision that the US Army Corps of Engineers does not have the authority to regulate intrastate, isolated, non-navigable ponds solely on the basis that they are used by migratory birds. But the proposed rule and policy directive ignores a decision by the Department of Justice that the court’s ruling does not necessitate modifying the scope of the Clean Water Act. The administration’s directive and proposed rule interpret the 2001 decision to mean that all “isolated” intrastate, non-navigable waters are outside the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act. [Environmental Protection Agency, 1/10/2003; New York Times, 1/10/2003 pdf file; Natural Resources Defense Council, 1/10/2003; Environmental Protection Agency, 2/28/2003 pdf file; Natural Resources Defense Council, 7/11/2003; Natural Resource Defense Council et al., 8/12/2004 pdf file] Whereas the proposed rule must go through a lengthy federal process before going into effect, the policy directive is enacted immediately. The directive instructs regional offices of the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to halt protection of wetlands unless (1) the waterway lies adjacent to navigable rivers, streams and their tributaries or (2) the EPA’s headquarters in Washington has granted explicit approval to exercise regulatory authority. No approval however is required for the commencement of activities that could potentially pollute these waters. As a result of this directive, thousands of acres of wetlands, small streams, and other waters instantly lose federal protection. [New York Times, 1/10/2003 pdf file; Natural Resources Defense Council, 7/11/2003; Natural Resource Defense Council et al., 8/12/2004 pdf file] The proposed rule will generate an immense public outcry. Ninety-nine percent of the 135,000 comments submitted to the EPA and Army Corps on this proposal will be opposed to it. Comments supporting the proposed rule will come from the National Mining Association, the Independent Petroleum Association of America, National Association of Home Builders, and other industry groups. Additionally, environmental and natural resource government agencies from 39 states, including 17 with Republican governors, will oppose the plan, while agencies from only three states will support it. Numerous local government entities, scientific groups, as well as a bi-partisan group of 219 representatives and twenty-six senators, will also come out against the proposal. [Natural Resources Defense Council, 7/11/2003; Natural Resource Defense Council et al., 8/12/2004 pdf file]

Entity Tags: US Army Corps of Engineers, Environmental Protection Agency, Bush administration (43)

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

Category Tags: Environmental Policies/Programs, Federal, Before Katrina

(Show related quotes)

Michael D. Brown, an Oklahoma lawyer, replaces Joseph Allbaugh as Director of FEMA. Brown, who was Allbaugh’s college roommate, joined the Bush administration in 2001 as FEMA’s general counsel at Allbaugh’s invitation. [Knight Ridder, 9/3/2005; Boston Herald, 9/3/2005; New York Times, 9/7/2005] Upon Brown’s appointment, Allbaugh says, “The president couldn’t have chosen a better man to help… prepare and protect the nation.” However, prior to joining the Bush administration, Brown apparently had little prior experience in disaster relief or prevention. From 1991 to January 2001, Brown worked as the commissioner of judges and stewards of the International Arabian Horse Association, earning about $100,000 per year. In this role, Brown was charged with ensuring that horse-show judges followed the rules and investigating any allegations of cheating. He was asked to resign in 2001 after accepting donations to a personal legal defense fund. [Boston Herald, 9/3/2005; New York Times, 9/7/2005]

Entity Tags: Michael D. Brown, Federal Emergency Management Agency

Category Tags: Political Patronage, Federal, Federal: FEMA, Before Katrina

FEMA is merged into the Emergency and Response Directorate of the Department of Homeland Security. Michael D. Brown, the agency’s new head (see March 1, 2003), assures skeptics that the revamped agency will be “FEMA on steroids.” [Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004] FEMA’s Cabinet status disappears as it becomes one of 22 government agencies to be consolidated into DHS. According to the Washington Post,“For a time… even its name was slated to vanish and become simply the directorate of emergency preparedness and response until then-DHS Secretary Tom Ridge relented.” [Washington Post, 9/4/2005]

Entity Tags: US Department of Homeland Security, Michael D. Brown, Federal Emergency Management Agency

Category Tags: FEMA Restructuring, Federal, Federal: FEMA, Before Katrina

When FEMA is incorporated into the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) (see After March 1, 2003), FEMA loses control of more than $800 million in federal grant money to the Office of Domestic Preparedness, another part of DHS. Included in that sum are funds designated for emergency management preparedness grants, which fund states’ emergency management offices. After the merger, these preparedness grants are no longer given directly to the country’s state emergency management directors. Instead, they are given to state homeland security offices [Wall Street Journal, 8/31/2005] where they are generally designated for use in counterterrorism. [US Congress, 9/6/2005]

Entity Tags: Federal Emergency Management Agency, National Emergency Management Association

Category Tags: FEMA Restructuring, Disaster Mitigation, Federal, Federal: FEMA, Louisiana: State, Before Katrina

After FEMA is incorporated into the Department of Homeland Security (see March 1, 2003), veteran FEMA employees complain of a massive “brain drain.” FEMA “has gone downhill within the department, drained of resources and leadership,” I.M. “Mac” Destler, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy, will tell the Washington Post shortly after the 2005 Hurricane Katrina disaster. At least one veteran FEMA staff member, Pleasant Mann, complains on the record about the changes FEMA is undergoing (see Mid-September 2004). [Washington Post, 9/9/2005] Local officials complain that FEMA’s new focus on terrorism threatens other necessary prevention programs. “With the creation of Homeland Security, [natural disaster prevention programs] have taken a backseat,” says Walter Maestri, emergency management director in Jefferson Parish. “To us, it is pretty obvious which is the greater threat. One is maybe, the other is when.” [Philadelphia Inquirer, 10/8/2004]

Entity Tags: Federal Emergency Management Agency, Michael D. Brown, US Department of Homeland Security

Category Tags: FEMA Restructuring, Organization Capacity, Resource Allocation, Federal: FEMA, Louisiana: SELA, Before Katrina, Academia/Professional

Patrick J. Rhode, formerly the advance deputy director for Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign, joins FEMA as its chief of staff. In this role, Rhode will be responsible for FEMA’s day-to-day operations and for directing implementation of FEMA Director Brown’s priorities and policies. Rhode, a former television reporter, previously held positions at both the US Commerce Department and the US Small Business Administration under the Bush administration. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 10/23/2004; Washington Post, 9/9/2005]

Entity Tags: Patrick J. Rhode

Category Tags: Political Patronage, Federal, Federal: FEMA, Before Katrina

FEMA’s headquarters staff is forced to cancel disaster training exercises because of budget cuts, according to 16-year FEMA staff member Pleasant Mann. [Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004]

Entity Tags: Federal Emergency Management Agency

Category Tags: Federal, Federal: FEMA, Resource Allocation, Disaster Preparedness, Before Katrina

The Bush administration releases its “Draft Report on the Environment,” which concludes that by many measures US air is cleaner, drinking water purer, and public lands better protected than they had been thirty years ago. The document, commissioned in 2001 by the agency’s administrator, Christie Whitman, is comprised of five sections: “Cleaner Air,” “Purer Water,” “Better Protected Land,” “Human Health,” and “Ecological conditions.” But it is later learned that many of its conclusions rest on questionable data. Moreover, the report leaves out essential information on global climate change and pollution sources. [Environmental Protection Agency, 2003; New York Times, 6/19/2003] In its “Purer Water” section, the report claims that “94 percent of the [US] population served by community water systems [was] served by systems that met all health-based standards.” But on August 6, the Washington Post will reveal that on June 18 (see June 18, 2003), an internal inquiry had been launched over concerns that the source data was flawed. “Internal agency documents… show that EPA audits for at least five years have suggested that the percentage of the population with safe drinking water is much lower—79 percent to 84 percent in 2002—putting an additional 30 million Americans at potential risk,” the newspaper will report. [Washington Post, 8/6/2003] Another troubling feature of the report is that a section on global climate change was removed (see June 2003) from the report prior to publication because EPA officials were unhappy with changes that had been demanded by the White House (see April 2003). [New York Times, 6/19/2003; CBS News, 6/19/2003; Associated Press, 6/20/2003] In place of a thorough discussion of the issue, the report only says: “The complexity of the Earth system and the interconnections among its components make it a scientific challenge to document change, diagnose its causes, and develop useful projections of how natural variability and human actions may affect the global environment in the future. Because of these complexities and the potentially profound consequences of climate change and variability, climate change has become a capstone scientific and societal issue for this generation and the next, and perhaps even beyond.” [Boston Globe, 6/20/2003; Guardian, 6/20/2003] The EPA’s report also leaves out information on the potentially adverse effects that pesticides and industrial chemicals have on humans and wildlife. [New York Times, 6/19/2003]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), Environmental Protection Agency

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record, Global Warming

Category Tags: Before Katrina, Federal, Environmental Policies/Programs

Daniel A. Craig is appointed director of FEMA’s Recovery Division. In this role, Craig will be responsible for planning and executing FEMA’s recovery efforts following major disasters and emergencies, both natural and man made. Craig came to FEMA in 2001 from the US Chamber of Commerce, where he directed the eastern regional office. Before that he worked as a lobbyist for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 10/23/2004; Washington Post, 9/9/2005]

Entity Tags: Daniel A. Craig

Category Tags: Political Patronage, Federal, Federal: FEMA, Before Katrina

The US Corps of Engineers submits a draft report package and a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) on the proposed Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) wetlands restoration study (see March 2002-October 2003) to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). The Corps is hoping that the report will be released this month, so it can be used to request congressional authorization in fall 2004 for the plan’s basic framework. But its release is held up by questions from the OMB and CEQ. In February 2004 (see February 2, 2004), the Bush administration will provide formal comments about the plan to the Corps in its 2005 proposed budget, directing the Corps to develop a less costly plan that focuses on narrower, shorter term objectives. [Associated Press, 1/29/2004; Associated Press, 2/3/2004; Louisiana Coastal Area Study, 4/2004 pdf file; Louisiana Coastal Area Study, 7/2004 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Council on Environmental Quality, Office of Management and Budget, Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) Ecosystem Restoration Study, US Army Corps of Engineers

Category Tags: Before Katrina, Federal, Environmental Policies/Programs, Coastal Wetlands

President George W. Bush appoints Scott R. Morris as FEMA’s deputy chief of staff. In this role, Morris will manage FEMA’s day-to-day operations, and assist in the implementation of FEMA Director Michael Brown’s priorities and policies. Prior to his appointment, Morris served as the deputy chief of staff and White House liaison for the US Small Business Administration. Before coming to Washington, he was the marketing director for the world’s leading provider of e-business applications software in California, and worked for Maverick Media in Austin, Texas as a media strategist for the George W. Bush for President primary campaign and the Bush-Cheney 2000 campaign. He has also served as the director of political communications for a private communications firm, managed grassroots activities and media strategies for the Dole for President campaign, and assisted the executive director of the Republican National Committee. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 3/2005; Washington Post, 9/9/2005]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Scott R. Morris

Category Tags: Political Patronage, Federal, Federal: FEMA, Before Katrina

An article in the Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management notes: “[Joseph M.] Allbaugh brought about several internal, though questionably effective, reorganizations of FEMA. The Bush-Allbaugh FEMA diminished the Clinton administration’s organizational emphasis on disaster mitigation.” [Sylves and Cumming, 2004; Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), Joseph M. Allbaugh, Federal Emergency Management Agency

Category Tags: Mitigation, FEMA Restructuring, Academia/Professional, Before Katrina

A survey of 84 FEMA personnel conducted by the American Federation of Government Employees finds that 80 percent of surveyed employees believe that since FEMA’s merger into the Department of Homeland Security, the agency has become “poorer.” Sixty percent say that given the opportunity, they would transfer to another agency if the salary were the same. [Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004; Washington Post, 9/9/2005]

Entity Tags: American Federation of Government Employees, US Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency

Category Tags: FEMA Restructuring, Federal: FEMA, Resource Allocation, Before Katrina

The Bush administration’s proposed fiscal year 2005 budget sets aside $325 million for civil works projects in the US Army Corps of Engineers’ New Orleans district—slightly less than the $337 million approved by Congress the year before. According to Marcia Demma, chief of the Corps’ programs management branch, the Corps will need $425 million for 2005. “We have a backlog of contracts, and it’s just been for the past few years that… we haven’t been funded at our full capability,” Marcia Demma, chief of the Corps’ programs management branch, tells New Orleans CItyBusiness. Of the $325 million proposed in the Bush budget, the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project (SELA) would receive $30 million, far short of the $42 million the Corps says it needs, and $4 million less than fiscal year 2004’s actual budget. According to Stan Green, SELA project manager, the $30 million would probably allow the Corps to continue its current work on 12 projects in Jefferson and Orleans parishes. But if it were fully funded, he says, it could award contracts for an additional 14 projects. [New Orleans CityBusiness, 2/16/2004] (Congress ultimately approves $36.5 million for SELA. [Los Angeles Times, 9/4/2005] ) The administration’s proposed budget includes only $3.9 million for the New Orleans’ East Bank Hurricane Levee Project, a mere fraction of the $27.1 million requested by the Corps. According to Al Naomi, who manages this project, the budgeted allotment would not even cover the $4.5 million required for unpaid fiscal year 2004 work. (The sum ultimately approved by Congress for the east bank project is $5.7 million.) [New Orleans CityBusiness, 2/16/2004; Times-Picayune, 6/8/2004; Knight Ridder, 9/1/2005; Knight Ridder, 9/1/2005; Washington Post, 9/8/2005, pp. A01] Additionally, the president’s budget rejects a draft plan, submitted in October 2003 (see October 2003) by the Army Corp of Engineers, to begin a $14 billion dollar project to restore Louisiana’s coastal wetlands. Instead, the president directs the Corps to refocus its ongoing restoration study to produce a single, prioritized list of projects that can be completed in 10 years. Additionally, the corps is directed to include in its study several other larger restoration projects that are not part of the Louisiana Coastal Area study, and determine whether the mouth of the Mississippi can be altered to let sediment create new areas of wetlands to its east and west quickly, while still allowing shipping to reach port facilities in New Orleans and elsewhere along the river. Eight million dollars is allocated to the effort, only a fraction of the $50 million that was requested by Louisiana’s Governor (see January 2004). In the budget’s narrative, the White House acknowledges for the first time that Louisiana’s disappearing wetlands are partly the result of the US Army Corps of Engineers’ channeling of the Mississippi River for shipping and the construction of flood-control levees along the river to protect New Orleans. It also says that canals built by the oil and gas industry, natural subsidence, and rising sea levels are contributing factors to Louisiana’s net loss of coastal wetlands. [Associated Press, 2/3/2004; Times-Picayune, 2/3/2004; Louisiana Coastal Area Study, 4/2004 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Stan Green, Marcia Demma, Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) Ecosystem Restoration Study, Bush administration (43), Al Naomi, US Army Corps of Engineers

Category Tags: Flood Control Programs, Federal, Resource Allocation, Before Katrina, Coastal Wetlands, Land Development, Environmental Policies/Programs, Louisiana: SELA

Sixty of the nation’s leading scientists, including 20 Nobel laureates, warn in a statement: “Successful application of science has played a large part in the policies that have made the United States of America the world’s most powerful nation and its citizens increasingly prosperous and healthy.… Indeed, this principle has long been adhered to by presidents and administrations of both parties in forming and implementing policies. The administration of George W. Bush has, however, disregarded this principle.… The distortion of scientific knowledge for partisan political ends must cease.” [Union of Concerned Scientists, 2/18/2004] The Bush administration apparently ignores the statement. [Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 9/1/2005]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), Union of Concerned Scientists

Category Tags: Environmental Policies/Programs, Academia/Professional, Warnings, Before Katrina

Former FEMA director James Lee Witt tells Congress: “I am extremely concerned that the ability of our nation to prepare for and respond to disasters has been sharply eroded. I hear from emergency managers, local and state leaders, and first responders nearly every day that the FEMA they knew and worked well with has now disappeared. In fact one state emergency manager told me, ‘It is like a stake has been driven into the heart of emergency management.’” [Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004; Reuters, 9/2/2005]

Entity Tags: James Lee Witt, Federal Emergency Management Agency

Category Tags: Warnings, FEMA Restructuring, Federal, Federal: FEMA, Before Katrina

The Associated Press reports that disaster management experts and National Guard officials are concerned that the diversion of National Guard Troops to Iraq has severely degraded the Guard’s ability to effectively respond to domestic emergencies, such as natural disasters. The newswire reports that “[m]ore Guard members are deployed now than have been since the Korean War, about a quarter of the 460,000 nationwide.” Chris Reynolds, a battalion fire chief in Tampa, Fla. and instructor of disaster management at American Military University, says the Guard’s more frequent and longer overseas deployments “absolutely” affect states’ ability to respond to emergencies. The significance of the massive deployment goes beyond the sheer number troops that are missing, he explains, what’s so worrisome is that many of the reservists who have been sent to Iraq work in public safety and emergency response. “It’s the tenure and experience that’s missing, and you can’t simply fill the hole with someone,” Reynolds says. [Associated Press, 5/13/2004]

Entity Tags: National Guard, Chris Reynolds

Category Tags: Resource Allocation, Organization Capacity, Before Katrina

Consistent with its strategy to outsource disaster management functions (see Summer 2004), FEMA solicits bids for a contract to develop a hurricane disaster management plan for Southeastern Louisiana. FEMA’s “Scope of Work” for the contract demonstrates that it is acutely aware of the region’s vulnerability to hurricanes, and of the inadequacy of current plans to manage a major hurricane effectively. According to the document, FEMA and the Louisiana Office of Emergency Preparedness “believe that the gravity of the situation calls for an extraordinary level of advance planning to improve government readiness to respond effectively to such an event.” FEMA describes the catastrophe that will result when a hurricane strikes Southeastern Louisiana. For example, FEMA writes that “the emergency management community has long feared the occurrence of a catastrophic disaster” that would cause “unprecedented levels of damage, casualties, dislocation, and disruption that would have nationwide consequences and jeopardize national security.” It cites “various hurricane studies” predicting that “a slow-moving Category 3 or almost any Category 4 or 5 hurricane approaching Southeast Louisiana from the south could severely damage the heavily populated southeast portion of the state creating a catastrophe with which the State would not be able to cope without massive help from neighboring states and the Federal Government.” FEMA also expressly recognizes that “existing plans, policies, procedures and resources” are inadequate to effectively manage such a “mega-disaster.” The work specified in the contract, awarded to Innovative Emergency Management (IEM) in early June (see June 3, 2004), is to be performed in three stages. During Stage I, scheduled for completion between May 19 and September 30, 2004, IEM will conduct a simulation exercise featuring a “catastrophic hurricane striking southeastern Louisiana” for local, state, and FEMA emergency officials. (FEMA will pay IEM $518,284 for this stage (see July 19-23, 2004)) IEM completes this stage when it conducts the “Hurricane Pam” exercise in July 2004 (see July 19-23, 2004). During Stage 2, IEM will develop a “full catastrophic hurricane disaster plan.” FEMA allocates $199,969 for this stage, which is to be completed between September 23, 2004 and September 30, 2005 (see September 23, 2004). The status of Stage 2 is currently unclear. [Department of Homeland Security, 2004 pdf file; Department of Homeland Security, 2004 pdf file; US Congress, 9/9/2005] IEM apparently provides FEMA with a draft document titled “Southeast Louisiana Catastrophic Hurricane Functional Plan,” in August 2004. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 8/6/2004 pdf file] The Times-Picayune will identify a later 109-page draft, dated September 20, 2004 [Times-Picayune, 9/9/2005] [Times-Picayune, 9/9/2005] , and the Chicago Tribune will report that as Hurricane Katrina bears down on Louisiana during the evening of August 28, 2005, emergency officials are working from a functional plan, based on the 2004 Hurricane Pam exercise, that is only a few months old. The third stage relates to earthquake planning for the New Madrid Seismic Zone (NMSZ) in the Central United States. [US Congress, 9/9/2005; Chicago Tribune, 9/11/2005] The Scope of Work specifies that the contractor must plan for the following conditions:
bullet “Over one million people would evacuate from New Orleans. Evacuees would crowd shelters throughout Louisiana and adjacent states.” [Department of Homeland Security, 2004 pdf file]
bullet “Hurricane surge would block highways and trap 300,000 to 350,000 persons in flooded areas. Storm surge of over 18 feet would overflow flood-protection levees on the Lake Pontchartrain side of New Orleans. Storm surge combined with heavy rain could leave much of New Orleans under 14 to 17 feet of water. More than 200 square miles of urban areas would be flooded.” [Department of Homeland Security, 2004 pdf file]
bullet “It could take weeks to ‘de-water’ (drain) New Orleans: Inundated pumping stations and damaged pump motors would be inoperable. Flood-protection levees would prevent drainage of floodwater. Breaching the levees would be a complicated and politically sensitive problem: The Corps of Engineers may have to use barges or helicopters to haul earthmoving equipment to open several hundred feet of levee.” [Department of Homeland Security, 2004 pdf file]
bullet “Rescue operations would be difficult because much of the area would be reachable only by helicopters and boats.” [Department of Homeland Security, 2004 pdf file]
bullet “Hospitals would be overcrowded with special-needs patients. Backup generators would run out of fuel or fail before patients could be moved elsewhere.” [Department of Homeland Security, 2004 pdf file]
bullet “The New Orleans area would be without electric power, food, potable water, medicine, or transportation for an extended time period.” [Department of Homeland Security, 2004 pdf file]
bullet “Damaged chemical plants and industries could spill hazardous materials.” [Department of Homeland Security, 2004 pdf file]
bullet “Standing water and disease could threaten public health.” [Department of Homeland Security, 2004 pdf file]
bullet “There would be severe economic repercussions for the state and region.” [Department of Homeland Security, 2004 pdf file]
bullet “Outside responders and resources, including the Federal response personnel and materials, would have difficulty entering and working in the affected area.” [Department of Homeland Security, 2004 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Federal Emergency Management Agency

Category Tags: Flood Risk, Organization Capacity, Environmental Risk, Evacuation Problem, Public Safety Risk, Response Level, Federal: FEMA, Evacuation, Response, Shelter, Before Katrina, Disaster Preparedness

Mitch Daniels, Bush’s first budget director, states: “The general idea—that the business of government is not to provide services, but to make sure that they are provided—seems self-evident to me.” [Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004]

Entity Tags: Mitch Daniels

Category Tags: Mitigation, Federal, Outsourcing, Before Katrina

Al Naomi, the US Army Corps of Engineers’ project manager, “begs” the East Jefferson Levee Authority for $2 million to fund necessary levee repairs that Washington has refused to fund. “The system is in great shape, but the levees are sinking. Everything is sinking, and if we don’t get the money fast enough to raise them, then we can’t stay ahead of the settlement,” he says. “The problem that we have isn’t that the levee is low, but that the federal funds have dried up so that we can’t raise them.” The authority agrees to fund the repairs. [Editor & Publisher, 8/31/2005; Guardian, 9/1/2005]

Entity Tags: East Jefferson Levee Authority, Al Naomi

Category Tags: Flood Control Programs, Louisiana: SELA, Federal, Before Katrina

Pleasant Mann, a 16-year FEMA veteran who heads the agency’s government employee union, writes a letter to Congress describing how FEMA has changed under the Bush administration. “Over the past three-and-one-half years, FEMA has gone from being a model agency to being one where funds are being misspent, employee morale has fallen, and our nation’s emergency management capability is being eroded,” he writes. “Our professional staff [members] are being systematically replaced by politically connected novices and contractors.” [Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004]

Entity Tags: Pleasant Mann, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Bush administration (43)

Category Tags: FEMA Restructuring, Federal, Federal: FEMA, Organization Capacity, Political Patronage, Before Katrina

For the first time in 37 years, the US Army Corps of Engineers must halt its work on the New Orleans’ east bank hurricane levee system, due to lack of funds. Several sections of the levee system have sunk 2 to 4 feet and need to be raised. [Times-Picayune, 6/8/2004; Knight Ridder, 9/1/2005]

Entity Tags: Walter Maestri, US Army Corps of Engineers

Category Tags: Federal, Flood Control Programs, Resource Allocation, Before Katrina

Innovative Emergency Management (IEM), an emergency management and homeland security consulting firm, announces that the Department of Homeland Security has awarded it a $500,000 contract to lead the development of a catastrophic hurricane disaster plan (see September 23, 2004) for Louisiana and the city of New Orleans. Announcing the award, IEM Director of Homeland Security Wayne Thomas notes that “the greater New Orleans area is one of the nation’s most vulnerable locations for hurricane landfall. Given this area’s vulnerability, unique geographic location and elevation, and troubled escape routes, a plan that facilitates a rapid and effective hurricane response and recovery is critical.” [Innovative Emergency Management, 6/3/2004; Insurance Journal, 6/9/2004; US Congress, 9/9/2005]

Entity Tags: US Department of Homeland Security, Innovative Emergency Management

Category Tags: Outsourcing, Evacuation, Response, Shelter, Federal, Before Katrina, Private Sector

Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, which borders New Orleans’ west and south side, tells the local Times-Picayune that the war on terror is endangering flood control: “It appears that the money has been moved in the president’s budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that’s the price we pay. Nobody locally is happy that the levees can’t be finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a security issue for us.” [Editor & Publisher, 8/31/2005; Knight Ridder, 9/1/2005]

Entity Tags: Walter Maestri

Category Tags: Flood Control Programs, Resource Allocation, Louisiana: SELA, Before Katrina

For the second year in a row, FEMA rejects requests for pre-disaster mitigation funding in Louisiana (see 2003). Flood zone manager Tom Rodrigue, of Jefferson Parish, expresses shock. “You would think we would get maximum consideration” for the funds, he says. “This is what the grant program called for. We were more than qualified for it.” [Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004]

Entity Tags: Tom Rodrigue, Federal Emergency Management Agency

Category Tags: Disaster Mitigation, Louisiana: State, Federal: FEMA, Louisiana: SELA, Before Katrina

The Bush administration shifts FEMA funds away from pre-disaster preparation and implements policies to promote outsourcing of relief efforts to private companies. FEMA staff members warn that these policies will slow response times in emergency situations [Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), Federal Emergency Management Agency

Category Tags: Federal, Federal: FEMA, Before Katrina, Outsourcing

A FEMA document lists 222 upcoming FEMA and homeland security exercises designed to prepare federal response personnel for national emergencies. Only two involve hurricanes. “And even in both of those cases, they’re dealing with what would happen if there were a terrorist attack associated with a hurricane event,” reports NBC News analyst William Arkin. [MSNBC, 9/2/2005]

Entity Tags: Federal Emergency Management Agency

Category Tags: Resource Allocation, FEMA Restructuring, Disaster Preparedness, Before Katrina

The East Jefferson Levee Authority provides the US Army Corps of Engineers with another $250,000 after learning that portions of the levee in Metairie have sunk by four feet. The extra work is funded with increased property taxes in Jefferson Parish. [Editor & Publisher, 8/31/2005]

Entity Tags: East Jefferson Levee Authority, US Army Corps of Engineers

Category Tags: Federal, Louisiana: SELA, Flood Control Programs, Policies, Resource Allocation, Before Katrina

In a six-page letter to the congressional conference-committee charged with combining the House (see April 21, 2005) and Senate (see June 28, 2005) versions of the 2005 Energy Policy Act (HR 6), Energy Secretary Samuel W. Bodman expresses the Bush administration’s strong opposition to a provision that would grant coastal oil-producing states like Louisiana a share of the royalties from offshore oil and gas operations. Historically, the royalties have been paid exclusively to the federal government. [Houma Today, 7/21/2005; Houma Today, 7/23/2005; Salon, 9/1/2005] Bodman writes in his letter that “The administration strongly opposes” the new funding. “These provisions are inconsistent with the president’s 2006 budget and would have a significant impact on the budget deficit.” [Salon, 9/1/2005] The statement also says, “The administration recognizes that coastal Louisiana is an environmental resource of national significance and has worked closely with the state of Louisiana to produce a near-term coastal wetlands restoration plan to guide how the next phase of restoration projects in Louisiana will be identified, prioritized, and sequenced.” [Houma Today, 7/21/2005] Craig Stevens, the press secretary for the Department of Energy, later explains to Salon: “We didn’t object to the idea in principle. [Rather, we objected to] part of the way it was crafted.” [Salon, 9/1/2005] Bodman also takes issue with the House’s WRDA bill (see April 13, 2005). WRDA, or the Water Resources Development Act, provides federal authorization for water resources projects. The House bill would require the federal government to pay 65 percent of the cost of the Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) restoration project, leaving the remaining 35 percent for state and local governments to pay. “The cost-share paid by the general taxpayer for the Everglades restoration effort is 50 percent, and this should likewise be the maximum federal contribution for the Upper Mississippi River and Illinois Waterway and coastal Louisiana restoration efforts.” If the Fed’s portion of the bill were 65 percent, the letter argues, it would “create expectations for future appropriations that cannot be met given competing spending priorities within the overall need for spending restraint, including deficit reduction.” Adam Sharp, spokesman for Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA), notes however that the 50-50 cost-share formula for the Everglades is an exception to the Corps’ practice, not the rule. Indeed, in January (see January 2005), the Corps recommended the 65-35 cost share formula in its report on the coastal plan to Congress saying that such a split would be “consistent with existing law and Corps policy.” [Houma Today, 7/21/2005]

Entity Tags: Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) Ecosystem Restoration Study, Craig Stevens, Samuel W. Bodman

Category Tags: Before Katrina, Environmental Policies/Programs, Coastal Wetlands

FEMA sponsors a 5-day exercise rehearsing for a mock storm, named “Pam,” that destroys over half a million buildings in New Orleans and forces the evacuation of a million residents. The drill is conducted by Innovative Emergency Management (IEM). [Associated Press, 7/24/2004; Times-Picayune, 7/24/2004; Knight Ridder, 9/1/2005] It is attended by about 250 emergency officials and involves more than 40 federal, state, and local agencies, as well as volunteer organizations. As part of the scenario, about 200,000 people fail to heed evacuation orders. Pam slams directly into New Orleans bringing 120 mph winds, 20 inches of rain, 14 tornadoes, and a massive storm surge that overtops levees flooding the city with 20 feet of water containing a toxic mix of corpses, chemicals, and human waste. Eighty percent of the city’s buildings are damaged. Survivors crawl to the rooftops to wait for help, but rescue workers are impeded by impassable roads. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 7/23/2004; Knight Ridder, 9/1/2005; New York Times, 9/1/2005; MSNBC, 9/2/2005; Associated Press, 9/9/2005] The flooding results in a massive number of casualties and leaves large portions of southeast Louisiana uninhabitable for more than a year. [Associated Press, 9/9/2005] At the conclusion of the exercise, Ron Castleman, regional director for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, states: “We made great progress this week in our preparedness efforts. Disaster response teams developed action plans in critical areas such as search and rescue, medical care, sheltering, temporary housing, school restoration and debris management. These plans are essential for quick response to a hurricane but will also help in other emergencies.” [Reuters, 9/2/2005] As a result of the exercise, officials come to realize how difficult it will be to evacuate the city’s population in the event of a real hurricane. They expect that only a third of the population will be able leave before the storm hits, in part due to the fact that up to 100,000 residents live in households without a car. When asked how many people might die in such a storm, FEMA spokesman David Passey hesitates before stating, “We would see casualties not seen in the United States in the last century.” [Times-Picayune, 7/20/2004] In December 2004, a 412-page draft report summarizing the exercise will be completed with detailed predictions of what the government should expect in the event that a major hurricane strikes New Orleans.
Predictions - Flood waters would surge over levees, creating “a catastrophic mass casualty/mass evacuation” and leaving drainage pumps crippled for up to six months. “It will take over one year to re-enter areas most heavily impacted,” the report predicts. More than 600,000 houses and 6,000 businesses would be affected, and more than two-thirds of them would be destroyed. Almost a quarter-million children would have no school. “All 40 medical facilities in the impacted area [would be] isolated and useless.” Casualties would be staggering: 61,290 deaths, 187,862 injured, and 196,395 ill. A half million people would be made homeless by the storm. Storm “refugees” would be housed at college campuses, military barracks, hotels, travel trailers, recreational vehicles, private homes, cottages, churches, Boy Scout camps, and cruise ships. [Associated Press, 9/9/2005]
Recommendations - “Federal support must be provided in a timely manner to save lives, prevent human suffering and mitigate severe damage. This may require mobilizing and deploying assets before they are requested via normal (National Response Plan) protocols.” [Associated Press, 9/9/2005]
Top officials briefed - Ivor van Heerden, the Louisiana State University hurricane researcher who ran the exercise, reports that a “White House staffer was briefed on the exercise,” and thus, “there is now a far greater awareness in the federal government about the consequences of storm surges.” [Louisiana State University, 2005] After the Hurricane Katrina Disaster, van Heerden will recall in an interview with MSNBC that the federal government didn’t take the exercise seriously. “Those FEMA officials wouldn’t listen to me. Those Corps of Engineers people giggled in the back of the room when we tried to present information.” When Heerden recommended that tent cities be prepared for displaced residents, “their response… was: ‘Americans don’t live in tents’ and that was about it.” [MSNBC, 9/2/2005]
Follow-up - Another exercise is scheduled the following year, but it’s cancelled when its funding is cut (see 2005).

Entity Tags: Federal Emergency Management Agency, Ivor Van Heerden, Ron Castleman

Category Tags: Disaster Preparedness, Federal: FEMA, Louisiana: State, Louisiana: NOLA, Louisiana: SELA, Private Sector, Outsourcing, Flood Risk, Environmental Risk, Evacuation Problem, Sheltering, Before Katrina

The US Army Corp of Engineers publishes a schedule for local hearings on the revised Louisiana Coastal Area Restoration Plan, Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (DPEIS). Hearings will be held in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee. [US Army Corp of Engineers, 7/24/2004 pdf file]

Entity Tags: US Army Corps of Engineers, Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) Ecosystem Restoration Study

Category Tags: Before Katrina, Federal, Environmental Policies/Programs

In the southwest Louisiana parish of Cameron, the US Army Corps of Engineers presents its recently downsized Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) Restoration Plan (see July 2, 2004) to about 25 local residents, scientists, and environmental activists. People attending the meeting are angered that not one of the 15 major projects included in the revised plan are in southwest Louisiana. Apparently, several proposed projects that were included in the first draft of the LCA plan (see October 2003), including a plan to build major navigational locks at the mouths of the Sabine and Calcasieu rivers to prevent saltwater from seeping into freshwater marshland, are absent in the current plan. In this part of the state, saltwater intrusion has eaten away at the delicate marsh grass, both a key hurricane buffer and marine life breeding ground. [Associated Press, 7/29/2004]

Entity Tags: Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) Ecosystem Restoration Study, US Army Corps of Engineers

Category Tags: Before Katrina, Environmental Policies/Programs, Coastal Wetlands

Four leading environmental groups—the NRDC, the Sierra Club, Earthjustice, and the National Wildlife Federation—conduct a joint expert study. The report, largely based on Army Corps of Engineers documents obtained through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, shows that the Bush administration’s policies have allowed developers to drain thousands of acres of wetlands. The loss of wetlands on the Gulf Coast could have a catastophic effect since coastal wetlands weaken hurricanes before they make landfall thereby lessening the impact of such storms on populated inland regions. The report also says the policies have opened America’s waterways to massive amounts of industrial discharge. [Natural Resource Defense Council et al., 8/12/2004 pdf file] “There’s no way to describe how mindless a policy that is when it comes to wetlands protection,” one of the report’s authors says. The study is dismissed by the chairman of the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality, who describes it as “highly questionable,” and claims, “Everybody loves what we’re doing.” [Washington Post, 8/12/2004; Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 9/1/2005; Chicago Tribune, 9/1/2005]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), Earthjustice, Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, National Wildlife Federation, Council on Environmental Quality

Category Tags: Environmental Policies/Programs, NGOs, Federal, Before Katrina

The Bush administration orders the New Orleans Army Corps of Engineers district office not to begin any new studies, including one aimed at determining what New Orleans must do to protect itself from a Category 4 or 5 hurricane. The proposed 2005 fiscal-year budget originally included $300,000 for the study, but in the current version, this amount has been cut out. [Times-Picayune, 9/22/2004; Editor & Publisher, 8/31/2005; Knight Ridder, 9/1/2005]

Entity Tags: US Army Corps of Engineers, Bush administration (43)

Category Tags: Flood Control Programs, Federal, Resource Allocation, Before Katrina

Pleasant Mann, a 16-year FEMA veteran, says in an interview with the Independent Weekly that changes made to the agency by the Bush administration have so severely harmed FEMA staff morale that people are leaving “in droves.” Part of the problem, he says, has to do with the people Bush selected to run the agency. “The biggest frustration here is that we at FEMA have responded to disasters like Oklahoma City and 9/11, and here are people who haven’t responded to a kitchen fire telling us how to deal with terrorism. You know, there were a lot of people who fell down on the job on 9/11, but it wasn’t us… . Since last year, so many people have left who had developed most of our basic programs. A lot of the institutional knowledge is gone. Everyone who was able to retire has left, and then a lot of people have moved to other agencies.” Mann also complains that FEMA’s “priority is no longer on prevention.” FEMA’s merger into the Department of Homeland Security has made mitigation “the orphaned stepchild,” he says. [Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), Federal Emergency Management Agency, US Department of Homeland Security, Pleasant Mann

Category Tags: Federal: FEMA, FEMA Restructuring, Policies, Before Katrina

The Department of Homeland Security issues a task order for Innovative Emergency Management, Inc. (IEM) to “complete the development of the SE Louisiana Catastrophic Hurricane plan.” IEM is to receive $199,969 for the work. [US Congress, 9/9/2005]

Entity Tags: US Department of Homeland Security, Innovative Emergency Management

Category Tags: Outsourcing, Federal, Private Sector, Disaster Preparedness, Evacuation, Shelter, Response

The East Jefferson Levee Authority complains that the federal government refuses to fund a hoped-for $15 million project to better shore up the banks of Lake Pontchartrain. [Editor & Publisher, 8/31/2005]

Entity Tags: East Jefferson Levee Authority

Category Tags: Flood Control Programs, Louisiana: SELA, Resource Allocation, Federal, Before Katrina

The US Army Corps of Engineers releases its final report and programmatic environmental impact statement on the Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) Ecosystem Restoration Study. The plan would cost $1.9 billion and take ten years to implement. The Corps recommends a 65-35 federal-state cost-sharing formula, with the federal government contributing $1.28 billion, and the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources paying the rest. The comment period will end on December 6, after which point a Chief of Engineers report will be completed and provided to the Secretary of the Army for review and submission to Congress. [Philadelphia Inquirer, 10/8/2004; US Army Corp of Engineers, 11/8/2004; Louisiana Coastal Area Study, 11/8/2004] The LCA ecosystem restoration plan contains several components:
Near-Term Critical Restoration Features - “The recommended plan includes a number of critical restoration projects, five of which are recommended for near-term continued study, design, and implementation. These five projects address the most critical ecological needs of the coastal area and address a range of effects essential for success in restoring the coast. The five near-term critical restoration features are (1) Mississippi River Gulf Outlet Environmental Restoration Features; (2) Small Diversion at Hope Canal; (3) Barataria Basin Barrier Shoreline Restoration, Caminada Headland, Shell Island; (4) Small Bayou Lafourche Reintroduction; and (5) Medium Diversion at Myrtle Grove with Dedicated Dredging.” In addition to these five projects, an additional ten near-term critical restoration features are recommended for study and future congressional authorization. The strategies that the Corps intends to implement in these projects include “(1) Freshwater and sediment re-introductions by diverting some Mississippi River flows into hydrologic basins; (2) Barrier island restoration through placement of sand from offshore sources or the Mississippi River to sustain key geomorphic structures; (3) This would help protect the ecology of estuarine bays and marshes by reducing gulf influences as well as protect nationally important water bird nesting areas; (4) Hydrologic modifications to help restore salinity and marsh inundation patterns and provide fishery access in previously unavailable habitats; and (5) Creating a marsh platform for habitat in areas near existing navigation channels through the beneficial use of maintenance dredging material.” [US Army Corp of Engineers, 11/8/2004; Louisiana Coastal Area Study, 11/8/2004; National Wetlands Research Center, 12/15/2004]
Science and Technology Program - “The major goal of the program would be to decrease scientific and engineering uncertainties of restoration efforts and to optimize restoration opportunities.” [National Wetlands Research Center, 12/15/2004]
Science and Technology Program Demonstration Projects - “The recommended plan includes funding over a 10-year period for demonstration projects to be developed by the Science and Technology Program. These projects will cost a maximum of $25 million each.” [National Wetlands Research Center, 12/15/2004]
Beneficial Use of Dredged Material Program - This program intends to use “dredged material to restore, protect, and create aquatic and wetland habitats in connection with construction or maintenance dredging of an authorized project.” [US Army Corp of Engineers, 11/8/2004; Louisiana Coastal Area Study, 11/8/2004]
Modifications Program - The Corps will investigate how existing structures or their operation management plans can be modified to improve environmental performance. [US Army Corp of Engineers, 11/8/2004; Louisiana Coastal Area Study, 11/8/2004]
Large-Scale and Long-Term Concepts Requiring Detailed Study - This study will “determine their potential for achieving restoration objectives beyond the critical needs, near-term focus of other LCA Plan components.” [US Army Corp of Engineers, 11/8/2004; Louisiana Coastal Area Study, 11/8/2004]

Entity Tags: Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) Ecosystem Restoration Study, US Army Corps of Engineers

Category Tags: Before Katrina, Federal, Louisiana: State, Environmental Policies/Programs

FEMA awards 24 states $27.4 million in pre-disaster mitigation (PDM) grants. For the third consecutive year, grants request submitted by the flood-prone communities of Southern Louisiana are denied. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 8/8/2005]

Entity Tags: Federal Emergency Management Agency

Category Tags: Disaster Mitigation, Federal: FEMA, Louisiana: NOLA, Louisiana: SELA, Resource Allocation, Before Katrina

Funding is cut for a FEMA disaster exercise meant to prepare government agencies for a major hurricane in New Orleans. The exercise, a follow-up to the Hurricane “Pam” exercise that was conducted the prior year (see July 19-23, 2004), was to develop a plan to fix such unresolved problems as evacuating sick and injured people from the Superdome and housing tens of thousands of displaced residents. [Knight Ridder, 9/1/2005] “Money was not available to do the follow-up,” Michael Brown, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, will later say in an interview with the Associated Press. [Associated Press, 9/9/2005] After the disastrous Hurricane Katrina, Eric Tolbert, FEMA’s former disaster response chief, will tell Knight Ridder Newspapers: “A lot of good was done, but it just wasn’t finished. I don’t know if it would have saved more lives. It would have made the response faster. You might say it would have saved lives.” [Knight Ridder, 9/1/2005]

Entity Tags: Federal Emergency Management Agency, Eric Tolbert, Michael D. Brown

Category Tags: FEMA Restructuring, Resource Allocation, Disaster Preparedness, Evacuation, Evacuation Problem, Before Katrina

US Army Corps of Engineer’s Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project (SELA) has 14 projects planned, worth $114 million, that could be started if funds were available. But because of the drop in federal funding (see 2001-Early 2004) no new contracts have been awarded since early 2004. The 14 projects include widening canals, replacing bridges, and constructing culverts. According to Stan Green, SELA project manager, the projects are “of critical importance in reducing rainfall flooding.… I’d say in the last two or three years, the work that we’ve already done under SELA has made a significant difference. We have a lot of benefits yet to be realized from this work we haven’t built yet.” [New Orleans CityBusiness, 2/7/2005; Los Angeles Times, 9/4/2005]

Entity Tags: Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, Stan Green

Category Tags: Flood Control Programs, Federal, Resource Allocation, Before Katrina

The Bush administration’s fiscal year 2006 budget request includes a six percent reduction in funding for Emergency Management Performance Grants. The cut would reduce the $180 million appropriated by Congress in 2005 to $170 million in 2006. “The grants are the lifeblood for local programs and, in some cases, it’s the difference between having a program in a county and not,” says Dewayne West, the director of Emergency Services for Johnston County, North Carolina, and president of the International Association of Emergency Managers. “It’s awfully difficult. More money is needed.” The White House however insists it is unfair to say Bush’s budget for the performance grants are a “cut,” because it was Congress, not the White House, that had increased the program’s budget in 2005 to $180 million. [Reuters, 9/17/2005]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Dewayne West

Category Tags: Disaster Mitigation, Disaster Preparedness, Federal, Resource Allocation, Before Katrina

The Bush administration’s proposed fiscal year 2006 budget includes $20 million to help support research, planning, and design work related to efforts to restore Louisiana’s coastal wetlands. The budget would also provide $28 million for southeast Louisiana flood control projects. [White House website, 2/7/2005]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43)

Category Tags: Coastal Wetlands, Flood Control Programs, Federal, Resource Allocation, Before Katrina

Judge Michael Chertoff is confirmed by the Senate in a 98-0 vote and sworn in as the second Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, succeeding the agency’s previous head, Tom Ridge. Chertoff previously served as the United States Circuit Judge for the Third Circuit Court of Appeal, and prior to that he was the Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division at the Department of Justice. During the 2000 elections, he helped fundraise for George W. Bush and other Republicans during the 2000 election cycle and advised Bush’s presidential campaign on criminal justice issues. Before joining the Bush administration, Chertoff was a partner in the law firm of Latham & Watkins, and from 1994 to 1996 he served as Special Counsel for the US Senate Whitewater Committee. [Department of Homeland Security, 9/16/2005]

Entity Tags: Michael Chertoff, US Congress

Category Tags: FEMA Restructuring, Political Patronage, Federal, Before Katrina

A US Army Corps of Engineers memo warns that funding levels for fiscal years 2005 and 2006 will not be enough to finance new construction on the levees protecting New Orleans. [Reuters, 9/1/2005]

Entity Tags: US Army Corps of Engineers

Category Tags: Warnings, Federal, Flood Control Programs, Before Katrina

The New Orleans district of the US Army Corps of Engineers formally notifies Washington that if a major hurricane scores a direct hit on the city, two of New Orleans’ biggest pumping stations could be disabled. These pumping stations are needed—even under normal conditions—to keep the city dry. In the event of an overtopped or breached levee and heavy rains, the city would be submerged. [Los Angeles Times, 9/4/2005]

Entity Tags: US Army Corps of Engineers

Category Tags: Flood Control Programs, Flood Risk, Federal, Warnings, Before Katrina

The House of Representatives proposes the steepest reduction in hurricane and flood-control funding for New Orleans in history—$71.2 million, or 21 percent. The Bush administration had earlier proposed a $52.8 million reduction for the New Orleans district’s fiscal year 2006 budget. The cut would be the largest single-year spending cut ever incurred by the district. As a result of the expected cut, the local Corps office postpones a study seeking to determine ways to protect the region from a Category 5 hurricane. Additionally, it imposes a hiring freeze and is unable to start any new jobs or award any new contracts. “I’ve been here over 30 years and I’ve never seen this level of reduction,” said Al Naomi, project manager for the New Orleans district. “I think part of the problem is it’s not so much the reduction, it’s the drastic reduction in one fiscal year. It’s the immediacy of the reduction that I think is the hardest thing to adapt to.” One of the hardest hit projects is the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project (SELA). Its budget is being slashed to $10.4 million, down from $36.5 million. The amount is a sixth of what local officials say they need. Funding for levee repairs and other work on Lake Pontchartrain is scheduled to be cut from $5.7 million (see February 2, 2004) this year to $2.9 million in 2006. “We’ll do some design work. We’ll design the contracts and get them ready to go if we get the money. But we don’t have the money to put the work in the field, and that’s the problem,” Naomi says. [New Orleans CityBusiness, 6/6/2005; Editor & Publisher, 8/31/2005; Chicago Tribune, 9/1/2005]

Entity Tags: Al Naomi, Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, Bush administration (43)

Category Tags: Flood Control Programs, Federal, Resource Allocation, Before Katrina

As part of the program, “Preparing for the Big One,” aimed at ensuring that none of New Orleans residents are left behind during a mandatory hurricane evacuation, the city contracts Total Community Action, a community faith-based network, to produce 70,000 30-minute DVDs. The DVD is meant to serve as a guide for the city’s poorest residents, many of whom do not own cars and live in the city’s lowest, most flood-prone, areas. At one point during the video, Rev. Marshall Truehill, who heads Total Community Action, warns, “Don’t wait for the city, don’t wait for the state, don’t wait for the Red Cross.” He tells the viewers, “It’s your personal responsibility” to escape before a hurricane. Other guests appearing on the video—including Mayor Ray Nagin, local Red Cross Executive Director Kay Wilkins and City Council President Oliver Thomas—reiterate the same message. “You’re responsible for your safety, and you should be responsible for the person next to you,” Wilkins says. “If you have some room to get that person out of town, the Red Cross will have a space for that person outside the area. We can help you.… But we don’t have the transportation.” The Los Angeles Times says that one of the video’s central message is that those without cars would not be able to rely on the city to evacuate them and that they would need to devise their own evacuation strategies. The video suggests that residents without cars should prearrange rides with other residents who do have cars. “Everybody needs to have their own plans,” New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin says on the video. “Check with your neighbors, check with your relatives.” Nagin also warns that public schools are no longer considered safe shelters. Other parts of the program provide advice on how to clear storm drains, pack an evacuation kit and medical supplies, and keep pets safe. [Times-Picayune, 7/24/2005; Los Angeles Times, 9/13/2005]

Entity Tags: Ray Nagin, Preparing for the Big One, Total Community Action, Marshall Truehill, American Red Cross

Category Tags: Evacuation, Federal, Disaster Preparedness, NGOs, Louisiana: NOLA, Before Katrina

Michael Chertoff, head of the Department of Homeland Security, unveils a massive restructuring plan for the agency. One of the changes envisioned by the plan, dubbed the “second-stage review,” would be to transfer the function of preparedness planning from FEMA to “a strengthened department preparedness directorate.” [Washington Post, 7/13/2005] Chertoff further explains that he plans “to take out of FEMA a couple of elements that were really not related to its core missions, that were generally focused on the issue of preparedness in a way that I think was frankly more of a distraction to FEMA than an enhancement to FEMA.” The Wall Street Journal notes this“would cement FEMA’s reduced role” and “[strip] away longstanding functions such as helping communities build houses outside flood zones.” [Wall Street Journal, 9/6/2005]

Entity Tags: Michael Chertoff, Federal Emergency Management Agency, US Department of Homeland Security

Category Tags: Federal, Federal: FEMA, Disaster Preparedness, FEMA Restructuring, Before Katrina

In a letter to Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), the leaders of a key Senate committee that oversees the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA), a group of state emergency directors, denounces a proposal (see July 13, 2005) to transfer preparedness functions from FEMA to a new preparedness directorate elsewhere in DHS. The NEMA letter argues that the move would disconnect disaster planning staff, grants, and programs from the state, local, and federal agencies that are supposed to respond. “It would have an extremely negative impact on the people of this nation.… Any unnecessary separation of these functions will result in a disjointed response and adversely impact the effectiveness of departmental operations.” David Liebersbach, president of NEMA and director of the Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, says he believes that the motive behind the proposal relates to terrorism prevention efforts, which are very different than the types of efforts required to mitigate and manage natural disasters. “Losing [the] natural hazards emphasis for FEMA is getting to be quite a concern,” he says. “Prior to FEMA, the very programs that became FEMA were fragmented and were very difficult for states to interface with. Now you start taking pieces out.” [Ledger (Lakeland, FL), 8/21/2005; Wall Street Journal, 9/6/2005; Reuters, 9/17/2005] Now there is a “total lack of focus on natural-hazards preparedness,” he says. “[The emphasis on terrorism] indicates that FEMA’s long-standing mission of preparedness for all types of disasters has been forgotten at DHS.” [Reuters, 9/17/2005]

Entity Tags: National Emergency Management Association, David Liebersbach

Category Tags: FEMA Restructuring, Disaster Preparedness, Federal, Federal: FEMA, Organization Capacity, Before Katrina

ABC News reports that much of the Louisiana National Guard’s equipment—including dozens of high-water vehicles, humvees, refuelers, and generators—is in Iraq. “The National Guard needs that equipment back home to support the homeland security mission,” Lt. Colonel Pete Schneider with the LA National Guard tells ABC. [ABC News, 8/1/2005]

Category Tags: Resource Allocation, Organization Capacity, Federal, Before Katrina

Rev. Marshall Truehill, who heads Total Community Action, a faith-based organization heading a program to ensure that New Orleans poorest residents can safely evacuate the city, appears on the local ABC-TV affiliate station in a taped segment to inform viewers that a DVD (see (Summer 2005)) would soon be available providing hurricane evacuation tips. The DVDs are scheduled to be distributed some time in September. [Los Angeles Times, 9/13/2005]

Entity Tags: Marshall Truehill

Category Tags: NGOs, Disaster Preparedness, Evacuation, Before Katrina

Ordering 

Time period


Categories

Period

Before Katrina (140)Pre-Impact Katrina (192)During Katrina (76)Immediate Katrina Aftermath (19)After Katrina (3)

Organization

Federal (138)Federal: FEMA (64)Louisiana: State (72)Louisiana: NOLA (46)Louisiana: SELA (42)Mississippi: State (4)Mississippi: Biloxi (0)Mississippi: Gulfport (0)Mississippi: Other Local (0)Alabama: State (0)Florida: State (0)States: Other States (0)Private Sector (19)Academia/Professional (9)Media (27)NGOs (17)General Public (9)

Knowledge

Flood Risk (28)Evacuation Problem (22)Public Safety Risk (3)Environmental Risk (5)Organization Capacity (10)Levee Breach/Flooding (58)Sheltering (1)Response Level (1)Advisories (81)Increased Chance of Hurricane (1)

Disaster Management Legislation Relevant to Katrina

Legislation (3)

Emergency Preparedness/Response Plans

Evacuation (13)Shelter (4)Response (7)Recovery (1)

Policies that Affected Intensity of Katrina Impact

Environmental Policies/Programs (16)Land Development (3)Flood Control Programs (23)Disaster Mitigation (12)Disaster Preparedness (11)Resource Allocation (29)FEMA Restructuring (16)Outsourcing (5)Political Patronage (9)Canvassing (0)

Progress and Impact Hurricane Katrina

Florida (3)Louisiana: State (2)Louisiana: NOLA (20)Louisiana: SELA (18)Mississippi: Local (0)Mississippi: State (0)Mississippi: Biloxi (0)Mississippi: Gulfport (0)Mississippi: Other Local (0)Alabama: State (0)

Execution of Emergency Plans

Evacuation (22)Sheltering (2)Emergency Response (120)Other States' Assistance (0)

Response in Wake of Katrina Disaster

Response to Evacuation Execution (0)Response to Emergency Response (1)Investigations (0)

Recovery from Katrina

Infrastructure (bridges; roads) (0)Governmental Services (water, electricity, etc) (0)Industry (oil industry, etc.) (0)citizenship (0)

Statements

Policies (5)Warnings (15)Plans (0)Mitigation (4)Katrina (6)Execution of Emergency Plans (25)Response (0)Recovery (0)

Specific Cases and Issues

Coastal Wetlands (27)

Other

Other (4)
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