Appeals Court Denies Louisiana’s $586M Demand to FEMA to Fix Barrier Islands

February 5, 2018

A federal appeals court has rejected Louisiana’s contention that the federal government should pay $586 million to restore barrier islands and wetlands damaged by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld decisions by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, an arbitration panel and a district court. | The Times-Picayune reports that the decision says the islands and wetlands would have had to be improved and maintained to get FEMA money.

The request included most of the southern edge of Louisiana’s coastline, including both barrier islands and headlands _ that is, beaches and back wetlands connected to land. Many of the islands have been or are being rebuilt with other money, including federal fines and penalties from the BP oil spill in 2010.

The ruling won’t stop efforts to get FEMA money to restore barrier islands, the state Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority said in a statement after the ruling was handed down Monday. Rather, it said, the ruling is “effectively procedural,” and about whether the state will have one or several arbitrations with FEMA.

“CPRA firmly believes that Louisiana is entitled to public assistance for its barrier islands and it intends to pursue all avenues of recovery,” the statement said. “The restoration of these islands is vital to their very existence and by extension, Louisiana’s coastline, wetlands and wildlife, as well as the life and property of Louisiana’s citizens.”

The original arbitration panel suggested separate applications for each island for which the state could provide a record of improvements and maintenance.

Even as the state pursued its appeal, it has filed separate requests for several individual islands. Those requests are pending. But the state also had made earlier individual island repair requests totaling $200 million soon after Katrina and Rita, and those requests were denied by FEMA for similar reasons.

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