Augusta, Maine - After a disaster, local officials face challenges in coordinating recovery efforts. In addition to helping citizens with basic needs, communities must comply with federal, state and local laws that regulate environmental and historic preservation when rebuilding. When needed, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has a team of specialists that provide consultation, and work with Public Assistance personnel in the rebuilding process.
FEMA designates project officers who sit down with community leaders during the recovery process. Together, they discuss which types of emergency expenses and projects are eligible for Public Assistance funding to rebuild. FEMA environmental and historic personnel assist in identifying potential environmental and historical issues, and conduct agency consultations related to threatened and endangered species, essential fish habitats and historic properties. Many projects are reviewed by environmental and historic preservation personnel to help ensure compliance by the applicant.
Once potential issues are identified, FEMA project officers remind officials that they must obtain permits. Work in streams, wetlands, or the repair or replacement of historic properties, for example, are of particular interest to communities in Maine, due to the prevalence of waterways and older structures.
In addressing possible environmental issues, FEMA environmental staff work with Maine's Department of Environmental Protection to remind applicants of state laws and regulations that may apply to their repairs. Many regulations that protect the environment are federally mandated. Air quality, hazardous materials, and debris disposal activity in wetlands and sand dunes are among the issues regulated by the state.
Several laws protect wildlife habitat and fisheries. Under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, FEMA is required to ensure that any action authorized, funded, or carried out is not likely to adversely affect any endangered or threatened species. In Maine, this means that species like the bald eagle, Atlantic salmon and the shortnose sturgeon must be protected when rebuilding structures. Consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service may be required if post-disaster projects involve repair or construction of dams, levees, stream relocation or any activity that modifies a body of water.
Protection of wetlands is another important environmental consideration. For example, debris cannot be stored in a wetland, even temporarily. For work conducted in a wetland, such as demolition, repair or construction, coordination and permitting with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Maine DEP and possibly other agencies is required. FEMA project officers provide information, and contact information for any community affected by these environmental regulations. In addition, the environmental staff provides essential points of contact so applicants can directly interact with the appropriate agencies.
Humans have lived in what is now Maine for at least 11,000 years, making the area rife with archeological sites and historic structures. The National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 requires FEMA to identify all historic properties that might be affected by a FEMA-funded project. As rebuilding and reconstruction continues for the April flooding disaster, FEMA personnel work closely with the Maine Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) to ensure all appropriate notifications and concurrences takes place. These regulations preserve, and protect Maine?s cultural resources.
Nubble Lighthouse in York sustained damage during the storm in April. In order to be eligible for federal funding, the repair of Nubble Light House, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, must comply with provisions of the National...