Sen. Vitter credits hold to spurring FEMA action

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 11, 2009

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Louisiana Sen. David Vitter credits his hold on Craig Fugate’s nomination as FEMA director with spurring the agency to act on funding disputes he claims had threatened the livelihood of some hurricane-hit coastal communities.

A spokesman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Bob Josephson, said Wednesday that officials had been working on the issue for several months at the time of the hold.

Vitter took political heat after he disclosed last month — and with hurricane season approaching — that he had placed a hold on the nomination because he did not believe FEMA had ‘‘adequately addressed’’ his list of recovery concerns.

Email newsletter signup

Vitter, a Republican, relented after a top FEMA official said in writing that the agency would work to find a ‘‘reasonable resolution’’ with him and other lawmakers who had raised concerns.

Vitter believes that if not for his hold, the two sides would still be at an impasse on whether to allow several communities to rebuild fire stations and other infrastructure in areas flood maps consider at high risk of future flooding.

The senator argued, along with state officials and Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., that forcing communities like Grand Isle to rebuild heavily damaged infrastructure outside of so-called ‘‘V’’ zones could be a death blow for them.

Josephson said FEMA’s action would allow more than two dozen infrastructure projects to be reconstructed essentially in place. The projects would still have to meet elevation and other standards.

Landrieu, who also praised FEMA’s action, noted in a statement last week her ‘‘steadfast’’ insistence that the federal government consider another approach. She also said she put pressure on officials, including Fugate, who was confirmed May 12.

Vitter said he plans to meet with Fugate Thursday and thank him. But he said he also intends to bring up a list of other recovery issues for FEMA to address.