FEMA may pay full costs of Ike cleanup

June 12, 2009 8:56:29 PM PDT
The city of Galveston is getting a big boost for its road to recovery following Hurricane Ike. The cleanup, following the storm nine months ago, could now be entirely paid for using federal dollars from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.To work through the oppressive heat, Albert Rodriguez must be incredibly anxious to get his Ike-damaged home finished.

He's equally anxious to have the mounds of sticks and nails and fence posts out of his neighborhood.

"It's been there a long time. A lot of houses still have a lot of stuff out. We'd like to have our neighborhood back," said Rodriguez.

They are the remnants of Ike. Galveston continues to pick up storm debris everyday, but since the end of April, Ike-damaged communities have paid 25% of the bill. FEMA picks up the rest.

Now there is word from Washington that Congress will force FEMA to pay it all.

"If they're willing to help us, we'll take it," said Rodriguez.

In the nine months since Ike hit, enough debris has been brought to the management site that if you stacked it all on a football field, the pile would be 750 feet tall. That's a lot of debris and there's more to pick up, which is why Galveston needs the help so badly.

"It could've been done a lot sooner," said Galveston Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas.

Mayor Thomas visited Washington five times trying to get congressional help to make this a reality. As she points out, she is only asking for the same deal Congress gave Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina.

"We certainly did that for victims of Katrina, and not to do it for Ike was not right," said Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson.

The move will save Galveston alone $50 million. Other cities and counties may save even more.

In addition to remaining housing debris, 10,000 dead trees will soon be cut down on Galveston Island. That effort too will now be paid for entirely by FEMA

"It's going to enable all of us to build back sooner and stronger," said Mayor Thomas.

It won't make recovery easy, but islanders said the old plan made it harder than it needed to be.

The money isn't a sure thing yet. It is attached to an emergency spending bill in Congress. The bulk of the bill funds war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, but is expected to pass.

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