JACKSON, Miss. -- The Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has coordinated a team of state and federal agencies to assist the state of Mississippi in removing debris from navigable waterways. Waterway debris can include boats, cars, homes and trees.
A team of representatives from FEMA, the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources (MDMR), Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Coast Guard, Department of Interior (DOI), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (a bureau of DOI) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Office of Response and Restoration have been working on this mission for more than a month. NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service also participated, reviewing photographs, maps and reports. The team is 90 percent complete with its survey of Hancock County and identified 79 eligible sites for removal. Evaluation in Harrison and Jackson counties is 50 percent complete and so far 34 eligible sites have been found.
The purpose of this operation is to remove waterway hazards that have the potential to become health and safety risks to the public. FEMA has engaged the Coast Guard to carry out this mission under the direction of MDMR. Debris will be taken to a staging site for reduction and recycling. Recoverable vessels removed by the Coast Guard will be transferred to the Mississippi Department of Public Safety for final disposition. Authorities will process the vessel as an abandoned vehicle and attempt to reunite the owner through license and registration with their vessel. Owners who want to retrieve their vessels will be responsible for the customary costs involved in this process.
MDMR estimates there are between 1.5 to 2 million cubic yards of debris within the Mississippi Sound and contiguous coastal waterways. The team expects to complete the evaluation of all targets by Feb. 14, 2006. Debris removal will begin as soon as the Coast Guard has secured contractors.
Under FEMA, the Environmental Protection Agency along with the Coast Guard is working on the abatement of environmental hazards. This mission involves the removal of liquid fuels, oils and batteries which pose a threat to the environment. This is an ongoing mission.
The Coast Guard’s mission to remove waterway debris is 100 percent federally-funded through direct federal assistance from FEMA through March 15, 2006.
FEMA manages federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident. FEMA also initiates mitigation activities, works with state and local emergency managers, and manages the National Flood Insurance Program. FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on March 1, 2003.