Gustav relief decision ‘soon’

Published: Thursday, December 6, 2012 at 09:18 AM.

The case has been made to the Federal Emergency Management Agency and a decision from the agency was expected “soon” on whether Gulf County will be reimbursed some $15 million for damages to a beach renourishment project during Hurricane Gustav four years ago.

The reimbursement, said Washington lobbyist Amanda Woods, was initially to be provided by FEMA before a protest from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who expressed concerns about impacts to sensitive animal habitat.

Woods told the Board of County Commissioners last week that she and her firm, along with local officials and members of the county’s congressional delegation, have made a strong case that the reimbursement should be made and that FEMA has the power to decide that reimbursement despite objections for U.S. Fish and Wildlife.

The presumption from the beginning, Woods said, was the reimbursement to restore lost sand was within the guidelines of the Coastal Barrier Resources Act (CBRA) which seeks to govern development of sensitive coastal lands across the country.

That presumption, Woods added, was based on FEMA’s original authorization for the $20 million beach renourishment undertaken by the county in the past decade.

“FEMA can pay the reimbursement if it is consistent with CBRA and we think it is given two key points – sensitive species would not be impacted and the renourishment would not be bringing new development.

“We expect a response soon but we are confident we made the case.”

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