News Briefs: Audit Claims Feds Should End Deal to Rebuild New Orleans’ Storm-Damaged Infrastructure

In this week’s news briefs, a federal audit argues that FEMA shouldn’t have entered into the $2.04 billion deal to help repair New Orleans’ Hurricane Katrina damage, and a city in New York is looking at putting a halt to new development because of concern that its current water system can’t handle the growth
News Briefs: Audit Claims Feds Should End Deal to Rebuild New Orleans’ Storm-Damaged Infrastructure

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A recent federal audit says the Federal Emergency Management Agency should rescind its multi-billion-dollar deal to rebuild New Orleans’ hurricane-damaged infrastructure.

According to the audit, FEMA erred when it agreed to the $2.04 billion deal in 2015 because New Orleans hadn’t provided a full report about the condition of its infrastructure prior to Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and FEMA couldn’t properly differentiate between storm damage and pre-existing damage.

“It’s not a legal dispute. It wasn’t a dispute that a process wasn’t followed or that something improper occurred,” Zach Butterworth, the mayor’s executive counsel and liaison to the federal government, told the Times-Picayune. “They just said New Orleans should have had more records. We had to rebuild the buildings where the documents were kept.”

FEMA can choose to ignore the audit and following the release of the report, the agency released a statement saying it did not agree with the recommendations.

Source: Times-Picayune

California Water Agencies Have Different Experiences with Water Supplies Post Drought
Water users in Los Angeles provide a snapshot of what California utilities are experiencing following the winter of record snowfall amounts in the mountains that ended the state’s five-year drought — surplus supplies in some areas contrasted against lingering effects in the form of groundwater depletion for other areas.

“All of a sudden now we have so much water that we got to figure out what to do,” Anselmo Collins, managing water utility engineer for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, told Southern California Public Radio. “The challenge is, there’s more water than we can actually consume.”

The L.A. aqueduct can run full through next March and still carry only half of the water being produced from the snowmelt. Collins says the surplus has allowed the agency to scale back its purchases of water from the Metropolitan Water District, even transferring some of the water to the district in exchange for lower water prices later. The excess water is also being used to recharge underground aquifers.

But not every place is experiencing a water surplus.

“We still consider ourselves in somewhat of a drought condition,” Mark Pestrella, who oversees the dams, reservoirs and water spreading grounds run by the L.A. County Department of Public Works, told Southern California Public Radio. “We need two or three more years of the same rain.”

Pestrella says the drought sucked so much moisture from the San Gabriel Mountains that they acted like a giant sponge and absorbed most of the precipitation that would have otherwise drained into the county’s flood control system.

Source: Southern California Public Radio

City Looks at Slowing New Development to Prevent Strain on Water System
Potential strain on the water system has a city in New York considering a moratorium on any new residential development.

The city of Beacon is a popular tourist destination and expects its population to grow by as many as 2,300 people in the next few years. But because of concern about hitting its water limit, Mayor Randy Casale is proposing a six-month moratorium on the approval of any new residential projects submitted to the city council, planning or zoning boards. In the meantime, the city would look for an additional water source.

“There’s a concern everything built now will bring the population up to our limit for water,” Casale told the Poughkeepsie Journal.

He says the city currently has a population of 14,271 and can support up to 17,800 people with its water infrastructure. Ongoing development projects could get the community to that number.

At a city council meeting, some residents expressed concern that the move would negatively impact long-term growth prospects for the city.

“I get both sides of the argument, but my concern is that I don’t want to be in the position where we have a water problem and we’re not able to control it,” Casale responded. “No property is worth anything without water.”

Source: Poughkeepsie Journal


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