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Wednesday, 23 August 2006 09:01

Childish Feud Between FEMA and Army Corps of Engineers Leaving Gulf Coast at Risk; Bush AWOL

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A feud between FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers is leaving helpless countless people near floodplains around the Gulf Coast in the event of a hurricane, with President Bush nowhere to be found in resolving the dispute. Executive Order 11988, issued by Jimmy Carter in 1977, instructed the federal government to minimize building on floodplains to reduce water damage.

FEMA and the Corps are the two most important organizations in monitoring and enforcing flood paths, but are "no longer on speaking terms in Florida," according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). "As a result, neither agency is implementing floodplain restrictions, with each blaming the other."

PEER released communications between the two groups highlighting the tensions. FEMA gave the following excuse for the lack of enforcement: "The Corps appears to make no effort to determine whether proposed projects are located in the floodplain. The Corps assumes that floodplains do not exist if they have not been mapped by FEMA. The Corps fails to consider whether practicable alternatives exist to locating in the floodplain and, for projects that will be located in the floodplain, fails to consider whether the project design minimizes flood risks."

For its part, the Corps faulted FEMA: "[W]e found that about 1/3d of Florida didn't have up to date flood maps or ANY flood maps, as I recall. And those that were available were not very current."

The inaction caused by the dispute is particularly troubling in light of predictions for increased, more powerful hurricanes as well as the effects of global warming. A recent EPA study concluded the sea level is likely to rise 15 cm by the year 2050 and 34 cm by the year 2100, although it could surge as much as 1 meter in the next 100 years.

George W. Bush, who as president oversees the federal government, is not fixing the problem, just as he has done little before, during, and after Hurricane Katrina to assist the people of New Orleans and the rest of the region.

"The Corps and FEMA need to end the bickering and start doing their jobs," stated Florida PEER Director Jerry Phillips, who today sent a letter to the Inspector Generals for FEMA and the Corps asking for a joint review of why floodplain protections are being ignored. "This is beyond negligence - these federal agencies are supposed to be providing adult leadership but instead they are acting like spoiled children."