Money Earmarked for Evacuation Redirected
Sep 17 2:36 PM US/Eastern
By RITA BEAMISH
As far back as eight years ago, Congress ordered the Federal Emergency Management Agency to develop a plan for evacuating New Orleans during a massive hurricane, but the money instead went to studying the causeway bridge that spans the city's Lake Pontchartrain, officials say.
The outcome provides one more example of the government's failure to prepare for a massive but foreseeable catastrophe, said the lawmaker who helped secure the money for FEMA to develop the evacuation plan.
"They never used it for the intended purpose," said former Rep. Billy Tauzin, R-La. "The whole intent was to give them resources so they could plan an evacuation of New Orleans that anticipated that a very large number of people would never leave."
In Hurricane Katrina's aftermath, attention has focused on the inability of local and federal officials to evacuate or prepare for the large number of poor people, many of them minorities, who had no access to transportation and remained behind.
That possibility was one of the concerns that led Congress in 1997 to set aside $500,000 for FEMA to create "a comprehensive analysis and plan of all evacuation alternatives for the New Orleans metropolitan area."
Frustrated two years later that nothing materialized, Congress strengthened its directive. This time it ordered "an evacuation plan for a Category 3 or greater storm, a levee break, flood or other natural disaster for the New Orleans area."
The $500,000 that Congress appropriated for the evacuation plan went to a commission that studied future options for the 24-mile bridge over Lake Pontchartrain, FEMA spokesman Butch Kinerney said. .............
Asked about any earlier FEMA-funded plan, Mark Smith, spokesman for the state Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, said, "To the best of our knowledge we can find no information on this."
Congress' 1999 language directed that FEMA consult with that state agency as well as the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development.
FEMA's parent agency, the Homeland Security Department, did provide $75,000 to print 1 million evacuation maps
that were distributed this year for the state's updated transportation evacuation blueprint, state transportation spokesman Mark Lambert said. .............................
Amazing all that money virtually disappears and all that can be accounted for is a million maps at a cost of $13.33 per map.
Must have been some mighty fine maps.