Army Corps Slow to Clean Up Bayous, Canals, Officials Say

Wed November 09, 2005 - Southeast Edition

PASCAGOULA, MS (AP) The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is slow to clean up bayous and canals filled with debris from Hurricane Katrina, a Jackson County supervisor said.

More than 50 days after Katrina hit the Mississippi Gulf Coast, some Jackson County officials were wondering if debris would have been removed sooner if they had hired private contractors rather than relying on the Corps of Engineers.

Supervisor John McKay said the federal agency seems to focus on only one task at a time and that hinders hurricane cleanup efforts.

“That’s our constant gripe with the Corps of Engineers,” McKay said. “They want to do one thing at a time, and that’s wrong.”

Recreational boater Tom Carpenter asked supervisors for a faster cleanup of Bayou Chicot in Pascagoula. Carpenter said debris is preventing those living on boats there from navigating. Many of the homeowners, he said, lost homes to Katrina.

“I poked around with my boat and every two feet you hit something solid in the water,” he said.

Appliances, sheet rock, siding, carpeting and drapery are floating there, Carpenter said.

“We’re afraid to take our boats out,” he said,

Jackson and Hancock counties went with the corps for debris removal, while Harrison County hired contractors and will be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Jackson County officials said they didn’t realize that they would have been able to hire contractors to clean debris clogging bayous and canals and receive 100-percent FEMA reimbursement.

Supervisor Frank Leach said his colleagues should have patience with the corps. He said the corps’ priority has been clearing debris piled along county roads and now that the roads are clear, it can consider other tasks.

“They weren’t looking at waterways as essential,” Leach said.