Officials in Louisiana’s Livingston Parish claim lies, bungling and withholding of information are grounds for reversal of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s decision to deny $46 million in waterway cleanup costs Livingston incurred after Hurricane Gustav.
FEMA investigators used incorrect geographic coordinates and couldn’t find streams where work was done after the 2008 hurricane, but still ruled the streams posed no flooding danger to inhabited property, according to a 76-page appeal supplement filed by the parish.
The Advocate reports the supplemental document alleges FEMA continues to suppress documents vital to the appeal.
The agency declined to comment on the document filing because it is part of an active appeal.
The supplement questions the ability of FEMA’s subsequently deployed “Tiger Teams” to find the 425 miles of streams and canals in the parish where the work was done.
Livingston has shown through documents that FEMA’s assertions that Tiger Team members actually “walked the whole 425 miles of the project was a patent, palpable lie,” the appeal document states.
“The Tiger Teams never even laid eyes on a large percentage of the stream segments they claimed to have surveyed,” the appeal supplement states. “In large part, they could not even find the streams,” because they were using the wrong GPS coordinates.
FEMA’s Tiger Teams consistently failed to locate streams the federal agency later claimed had been “walked from start to finish in their 100 percent visual inspection.”
There is documentation of “the ubiquitous phenomenon of clueless Tiger Teams wandering the countryside, allegedly in search of streams that they never found,” says the appeal, filed by attorney Shelby Easterly III.
The teams concluded stretches of streams such as Little Colyell Creek “did not involve eligible work because they could not find any evidence that the stream even existed,” the appeal document states.
FEMA denied 100 percent of the parish’s waterway cleanup costs, saying the contractor “conducted widespread waterway debris removal in wooded, unimproved tracts of private property” where there was no immediate threat to adjacent improved property, according to a letter of denial by FEMA.
The debris contractor, International Equipment Distributors Inc., filed suit against the parish in February 2012, seeking about $53 million and claiming the parish owes IED for the work whether FEMA pays for it or not.
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