Hurricane Katrina

FEMA extends debris deadline

HANCOCK COUNTY - According to a news release Tuesday from Gov. Haley Barbour's office, FEMA has stretched the Katrina-debris cleanup deadline another 90 days.

The Army Corps of Engineers recently announced plans to end its debris-removal work June 30, prompting local leaders to claw their way up political ladders pleading their case to anyone who would listen.

Locals said the job was nowhere near complete. Bay St. Louis Mayor Eddie Favre said he was promised the federal government would stay on the job until the refuse was removed.

Waveland Mayor Tommy Longo said more than 20 percent of the storm's rubble still cluttered the county.

Earlier this month, the Corps of Engineers asked the cities and the Hancock Board of Supervisors to set a local deadline for property owners to have their storm-related debris pushed to the roadside so rubble haulers can make one last pass.

All of the entities refused to set such a date, and the Corps of Engineers will work three months longer in Hancock County and Pass Christian.

"We'll be finished with the mission when the locals say we're finished," said Brig. Gen. Robert Crear, the commander of the Mississippi Valley Division of the Corps of Engineers.

More than 43.3 million cubic yards of debris has been removed in Mississippi, and debris removal is about 98 percent complete.

Barbour said he is pleased the federal government has vowed to continue helping the state's hardest-hit area.

"I am confident this extension will allow time for the difficult job of debris removal to be finished," he said.

The federal government has been funding 100 percent of the debris removal since the Aug. 29 storm. All Mississippi counties designated under President Bush's emergency disaster declaration are eligible for the assistance.

The deadline for 100 percent federal funding is currently June 30. After the deadline, local and state governments will have to pay 10 percent of the cost and the federal government will fund 90 percent of the work until at least August 28.