U.S. Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, today hosted a U.S. Senate field hearing in Gretna, La., titled "Hurricane Isaac: Assessing preparedness, response and recovery efforts." Watch the hearing in its entirety.
The hearing featured testimony from Craig Fugate, Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA); Major General John W. Peabody, Commander for the Mississippi Valley Division of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; as well as representatives from state and local governments charged with responding to and recovering from the Aug. 29 storm. Among the participants were the presidents of four parishes outside the federal flood protection system that were hardest hit by Isaac: John F. Young of Jefferson Parish; Billy Nungesser of Plaquemines Parish; Pat Brister of St. Tammany Parish; and Natalie Robottom of St. John the Baptist Parish.
In her opening remarks, Sen. Landrieu highlighted the importance of a comprehensive response and recovery mechanism - one that utilizes federal, state and local resources - for future storms and other natural disasters.
"This hearing is part of a comprehensive seven-year effort to evaluate and improve our nation's ability to effectively prepare for, respond to and recover from natural disasters and man-made events of all sizes and types. I chaired a previous hearing in October of 2011 that laid the groundwork for disaster relief financing, which was enacted into law in December of 2011. That hard-fought effort helped ensure adequate appropriations to the FEMA Disaster Relief Fund. For the first time in over a decade, FEMA received the resources it needed through its annual budget to help families and communities recover, without needing Congress to replenish the fund through ad hoc legislation. ... But let me be clear, we simply cannot protect southeast, southwest, or south central Louisiana by relying solely on FEMA's mitigation grants. We need a more consistent, more robust funding mechanism, we need the Corps of Engineers and the state to commit additional resources to the effort, and we need a multi-layered system of defenses that incorporates smarter planning and stronger building codes, as well," Sen. Landrieu said in her hearing remarks.
During the hearing, Sen. Landrieu underscored the woeful inadequacy of the Corps' budget to meet the country's flood protection needs. She also criticized its flawed benefit cost analysis, which fails to take into account the strategic and economic importance of this region to the entire nation.
"Inevitably there will be more hurricanes and more flooding, but we cannot abandon or neglect this vital region of the country. We must protect it, and that will require a serious and sustained federal investment in flood protection through the Corps of Engineers and an emergency management system that better anticipates and accommodates whatever is thrown at it," Sen. Landrieu said.
Before, during and after Hurricane Isaac, Sen. Landrieu has continued to work to ensure a coordinated, thorough response for Louisianians impacted by the storm. After riding out the hurricane with her family in Broadmoor, Sen. Landrieu spent the following days traveling to storm-battered parishes to evaluate damages and help ensure residents and local governments were receiving timely assistance from federal agencies charged with disaster response.
During her travels, she surveyed flood damage during an aerial tour with the Corps of Engineers; met with Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano during her visit to St. Tammany; and personally delivered a letter to President Obama outlining the region's top needs to complete a recovery from the slow-moving storm. She also met with dozens of local elected officials from areas damaged by the storm, including the four parish presidents who testified at today's hearing.