Four members of Louisiana’s congressional delegation have asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to help Livingston Parish resolve issues with the Federal Emergency Management Agency over $46 million in Hurricane Gustav cleanup costs.
The parish is seeking payment from FEMA for cleaning debris from waterways after the storm, but FEMA has said the parish did not obtain the corps permits needed to do the work.
“The parish and its contractor conducted that work with FEMA’s approval based on the understanding that debris posed a threat of flooding” and was eligible for reimbursement, according to the delegation’s letter to the corps.
The letter addressed to Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick, commanding general of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is signed by U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La.; U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La.; U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge; and U.S. Rep Cedric Richmond, D, New Orleans.
The letter says that after the parish and its contractors completed the work, FEMA told the parish that some of the work may have required corps permits. The parish then submitted documentation to the corps for all 176 project areas.
In the subsequent three years, the corps determined work on 46 of the streams did not affect federal waters, and work on 13 streams contained wetlands, but that seven of those areas have “self-restored and require no further action by the parish,” the letter says.
The corps has not advised the parish whether mitigation is required on the other six wetlands involved and has not issued determinations on the more than 100 other project areas, the letter states.
The parish’s appeal to FEMA awaits a decision, which may be influenced by the corps’ wetland determinations, the letter says. The delegation further asks that the corps dedicate additional personnel to issue those determinations by mid-December.
“Livingston Parish is a relatively small, rural parish and does not have the financial resources to fund emergency debris removal costs that it incurred, in good faith and as a direct result of this presidentially declared disaster, without federal assistance,” the letter states.
“In addition, more than 60 contractors participated in the project, most of them small and family owned, and many have been forced to lay off workers or sell their homes or businesses as a result of the lengthy reimbursement delay.”
The parish’s main cleanup contractor, International Equipment Distributors, of Foley, Ala., has sued the parish for $53 million, which the company says the parish has not paid in connection with the cleanup work.
In a separate letter to FEMA, Cassidy said FEMA “knowingly allowed the parish to continue under the misapprehension that the parish did not need to involve the corps — a misunderstanding that the parish says actually originated with advice from FEMA.”