Update on FEMA policy

Summer 2008

The controversial FEMA policy which strips funding for flood fighting and clean-up from Tri-State levee districts is still in place -- two months after Federal officials promised it would be taken care of.

You'll recall last month area lawmakers met with FEMA to discuss the issue.

At that time the Director told lawmakers it was all a big misunderstanding and that it would be fixed.

Since then, KHQA has checked with FEMA and lawmakers regularly to find out what's been done.

Recently some Tri-State residents from the Sny Island Drainage District traveled to Washington D.C for answers.

KHQA's Melissa Shriver found out what they learned and continues to hold your public officials accountable.

At this time last year, Sny Island Drainage District Superintendent Mike Reed was working to get reimbursed for the six and a half million dollars spent fighting the rising Mississippi River. The district's fight saved hundreds of millions of dollars in damages to his district. Reed took his concerns straight to the source in Washington, D.C.

What are the FEMA people saying?

Reed said, "FEMA is telling us they're in conversations with the Army corps of engineers to work out language."

Reed said it's the same story talking to the Corps, which has assured him everything would be worked out and not to worry.

"We want to see it in writing," he said, "They say if a flood event would happen waivers would be issued but at this point we don't see in writing the process to get waivers."

But it's hard not to worry. Reed said during the 2008 flood, both FEMA and the Corps had some confusion as to their responsibilities when a policy was in place. No policy makes this situation even more precarious.

Reed said, "There are no written assurances and no clear cut authority. Actually it's more clear cut who's not going to be reimbursed and who is not going to have resources and that includes the Sny and local governments."

"Local levee and drainage districts have to have assurance that if we had a flood fight we could call in contractors and corps officials and have supplies so we have a source of reimbursement," Reed said.

And without that assurance of a reimbursement, districts and communities will find themselves powerless to pay for the cost of rising water. We also contacted FEMA to ask what the hold up is on the policy.

A spokesperson told KHQA FEMA understands the concerns but says work to clarify the new policy continues.

We also received this statement from the Army Corps of Engineers.

The corps says FEMA's new policy may have created unintended consequences for the public.

Now it's coordinating with FEMA to ensure that assistance programs are coordinated.

We also spoke with Congressman Aaron Schock's office.

A spokesperson there told us Schock is continuing to pressure FEMA to hurry the process along.

In fact a group of lawmakers including the Congressman and Senator Dick Durbin sent a letter to FEMA last week pushing for a resolution.

A spokesperson there says FEMA is working with the Army Corps of Engineers for clarification.

But he says with or without the policy changes in place, communities will get the flood fighting and repair assistance they need.

Congressman Schock's office also told KHQA the lawmaker is keeping track of FEMA's actions on this issue to make sure a resolution is reached as soon as possible.