Hurricane Katrina Forest Recovery

As we work together to tackle the historic challenge that Hurricane Katrina has presented to the forestry communities of Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama, we hope that this blog will be a valuable resource and tool.

Friday, October 27

Mississippi Beyond Katrina

"On August 29th, Katrina Hit Us....We Fought Back.The Mississippi Gulf Coast is returning to normal operations in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Our beautiful Coast suffered immense damage, but momentum is growing as we continue the rebuilding phase of recovery. Over the course of the next several years, the Mississippi Gulf Coast will truly be a land of opportunity for the tourism industry as it strives to become a tier one destination.

The Mississippi Gulf Coast is returning to normal operations in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Our beautiful Coast suffered immense damage, but momentum is growing as we continue the rebuilding phase of recovery. Over the course of the next several years, the Mississippi Gulf Coast will truly be a land of opportunity for the tourism industry as it strives to become a tier one destination."

For more information about Mississippi Beyond Katrina, visit where America's worst disaster is producing America's most ambitious housing, workforce, cultural, economic, and community development program.

Monday, October 23

Phasing in Progress - Long Beach Lands Water, Sewer Repair Funds

In cities throughout South Mississippi, residents and officials are eager to see progress in rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina. People in Long Beach won't have long to wait. The city received approval - and funding - from FEMA last week to start work on Phase I of replacing the water and sewer system south of the railroad tracks.

Work is scheduled to begin Oct. 30 on that phase, which runs from Nicholson Avenue to Girard Avenue and includes downtown. Long Beach is the first city in South Mississippi to get FEMA approval for replacing its water and sewer system, and Mayor Billy Skellie hopes the city gets the go-ahead more quickly for the other four phases. He also hopes it will make things easier for surrounding cities when they seek FEMA approval for the same type of work. "It has taken us from December until now to get this approved," he said. "We are the first city to start permanent replacement of water and sewer, but I think the second phase will go more quickly."

The problem, he said, is when FEMA gave the city estimates on what it would cost to replace the system, engineers used pre-Katrina prices. FEMA estimated the entire project would cost about $4 million to replace. When the lowest bid for the first phase came in at nearly $4 million, the project had to be reviewed again, by officials from South Mississippi to the nation's capital. Since that hurdle has been crossed and work will begin soon, Skellie believes the other phases will be approved quickly with the entire project scheduled to be completed by the end of June 2007.

Ward 2 Alderman Richard Notter represents the area covered by Phase I and said he is encouraged and believes when people see work going on, they will know Long Beach is making progress. "I think anything we can do to show rebuilding is a positive thing," he said. "Our beachfront is a vital part of our city, as well as our downtown area. I'm hoping that by replacing water and sewer, things will come back. We need the revenue for the city." Phase II runs from Girard west to the city line. The third phase goes from Nicholson east to the city line. The other two phases involve repairing manholes and sewer lines inland.
Long Beach progress

City officials are working on several projects to help the city rebuild from damage cause by Hurricane Katrina.

• Mayor Billy Skellie said the city has received bids on the first phase of permanent repairs to the harbor, which includes replacing two piers, the launch ramp and a crosswalk pier. Officials with FEMA and MEMA are reviewing those bids now. "We don't have a time frame for the harbor to be completed, but we could see the first phase done this winter," Skellie said.

• City officials are applying for a government grant that, if approved, could provide millions of dollars for new sidewalks, buried utilities and streets and drainage for the downtown area.

• Work also is being done on the library, which city officials believe is vital to downtown. Skellie said it could open by January or February.
"We're trying to get there," he said. "There's a lot of work being done there, and we feel like we could start moving back in sometime this winter."

• Land on Daugherty Road has been cleared for a new senior center, which has been in the works since before Katrina, Alderman Richard Bennett said.
The city so far has received more than $2 million in grants for the project, and the new center will have a gym, showers, a kitchen, community room and outdoor patio.
It also will have a generator so it can be used as a shelter during hurricanes, Bennett said.

The Sun Herald

Louisiana Proposes Trailer Alternatives - Program May be Model for Post-Disaster Housing

Modular, boxlike homes with add-on porches, changing roof designs and floor plans, and - most importantly - quick assembly. That's the idea behind grant proposals Louisiana submitted to federal officials to replace the cramped quarters of FEMA travel trailers for residents displaced by Hurricane Katrina and the victims of future disasters.

The nation's five Gulf Coast states are competing for a pool of $400 million to test and build alternative housing for hurricane victims, a pilot program FEMA hopes can become a model for how to provide fast, temporary or semipermanent housing after the next tornado in Nebraska, earthquake in Hawaii or hurricane in Louisiana.

"Louisiana wants housing for disaster victims. FEMA wants to look at options for future disasters," said Jeff Hebert, the Louisiana Recovery Authority's deputy director of planning who worked on the state's alternative housing grant proposal.

Thousands of Louisiana and Mississippi residents - in some cases families of as many as five people - are living in the tiny quarters of the travel trailers and mobile homes FEMA provided as temporary shelter. The trailers are piled into parks and are scattered around front yards in neighborhoods that were flooded or obliterated when Katrina struck Aug. 29, 2005.
The trailers are cramped and flimsy, and they have cost FEMA hundreds of millions of dollars to buy and install.

Hurricane victims and local, state and federal officials have complained the dollars could be more wisely spent on more adaptable, less temporary housing that replaces the tiny trailers with more livable starter homes that disaster victims could expand, an idea called Katrina cottages. Congress earmarked $400 million to FEMA to create the Katrina cottage pilot program. "This Gulf Coast pilot will have national applicability, as it will help FEMA consider new ways to house people quickly and efficiently for future disasters," FEMA Director David Paulison said in a statement.

The deadline to submit proposals to FEMA was Friday. The federal agency will decide which proposals get grant money by the end of November, though environmental impact studies could delay the fund disbursement by another month or more, said Michael Widomski, a FEMA spokesman.

The Louisiana Recovery Authority, working with national experts on disaster response and housing, weeded through 45 proposals submitted by nonprofit organizations and housing companies. The authority submitted six of those ideas to FEMA in the hopes of capturing some alternative housing dollars and moving Katrina and Hurricane Rita victims out of FEMA trailers.

The state would administer the dollars and housing programs if it received any grant awards.
Priority for the housing in Louisiana would be given to those deemed critical to the state's hurricane recovery efforts: emergency responders, construction workers, teachers and education officials, health care employees and hotel workers and others in the hospitality industry.

The homes in five of the six proposals that make up Louisiana's application are similar: boxy houses that can be transported easily and come ready to be assembled speedily, with porches, columns and garages that can be added to fit the design of homes in a neighborhood. "You just piece them together," Hebert said.

In south Louisiana and New Orleans, where the architectural styles are unique and specific to parishes, towns and even streets in some cases, the homes needed to fit into the style and culture of the area, Hebert said.

But he said the manufactured housing also can be adjusted to conform with the distinctive styles of other cities and states, simply by changing the roof, moving the porch or slightly reconfiguring the boxy rooms.

The critical difference between FEMA trailers and the alternative Katrina cottages suggested in Louisiana's proposals is space. While the travel trailers are about 200 square feet, according to Hebert, the manufactured homes suggested in the LRA grant package range from 800 square feet to more than 1,200 square feet, and they can be expanded. Families could get the initial modular homes as seed houses to which they buy their own add-on rooms and space.

Hebert said the alternative homes price tags are competitive with FEMA's trailer costs. The piece-together homes cost anywhere from $50,000 to $90,000 per unit, he said. Costs for land and infrastructure would be separate.

Widomski, the FEMA spokesman, said the costs of buying, hauling and installing travel trailers averages about $40,000 for each unit and about $60,000 for each mobile home.

One of the proposals included in the state's grant application involves a nonprofit organization, Family Resource of New Orleans, that already owns a patch of land and wants to create an affordable housing community for hurricane victims. Hebert said the organization is hoping to get some grant dollars to complete and expand that plan.

The most unique concept included in Louisiana's application involves a Baton Rouge-based design and construction company that proposes a "core" model - a boxlike room that includes kitchen appliances and bathroom facilities that could be dropped onto a site to provide the basic infrastructure needed to live.

For example, in a flooded-out home in New Orleans, the podlike "core" could be inserted into a garage, dropped into a back yard or inserted at the front of a damaged house while the homeowner guts and repairs. Or the "core" could be put on a vacant site and a house could be built around it with add-on rooms.


Thursday, October 19

Federal Government Approves Reimbursements

Federal reimbursement funding totaling more than $6.2 million has been approved for separate Hurricane Katrina recovery projects impacting Mississippi's Gulf Coast community.
The funding and official project descriptions are:

o Approximately $3.29 million (Federal share) to the City of Biloxi for debris removal. This represents the estimated contract costs to remove and dispose the remaining debris from the public rights of way, which is expected to conclude before February 28, 2007.

o Approximately $1.77 million (Federal share) to the Gulf Coast Community Action Agency for a new facility. The agency's 17,945-square-foot metal facility consisted of 12 classrooms and 12 offices. The estimate to repair the facility was roughly 58% of the estimate to replace the facility, qualifying the facility for replacement. This funding represents the estimated cost to replace the destroyed facility, after insurance proceeds, to their pre-disaster capacity and function, and to elevate the facility above the advisory base blood elevation.

o Approximately $1.23 million (Federal share) to the University of Southern Mississippi (USM) for repairs on the 80,973-square-foot Advanced Education Center Building on the Long Beach campus. This building was an addition to the campus at USM and was the newest classroom on campus. This funding will reimburse USM for repairs already completed.


Thursday, October 12

GCCF Awards More Grants to Non-Profits

The Gulf Coast Community Foundation (GCCF) has awarded more than $674,000 in grants to local non-profits from its Build Back the Coast Fund. The GCCF has now given more than $5.8 million in grants since Hurricane Katrina hit the Coast August 29, 2005.

"It has been our pleasure to help the Coast get back on its feet after Katrina," said Dave Treutel, president of the GCCF. "We look forward to leading the way by serving our community as we all recover and rebuild."

Non-profits receiving grants are Alice Moseley Folk Art, Bay Area Youth Soccer, Center Stage, Feed My Sheep, Goodwill Industries of South Mississippi, Gulf Coast Women's Center for Non-Violence, Hancock County Community Development Foundation, Hancock County Food Pantry, Hancock County Historical Society, Hancock County Human Resources, Hope Haven Children's Shelter, Lynn Meadows Discovery, Magnolia Community Center, Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art, Pass Christian Public Library, St. Rose de Lima Catholic Church and The Arts Hancock County.


Tuesday, October 10

Barbour to Address Export Conference

The 2006 National District Export Council Conference will be held October 30-November 1 at the InterContinental Hotel in New Orleans. And on November 1, Gov. Haley Barbour will address the conference, speaking on the importance and potential impact of the Gulf Opportunity Zone legislation for coastal businesses affected by Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma.

The conference will also feature interactive panel presentations and breakout sessions designed to address a variety of international networking and trade education topics, such as overcoming trade challenges, government services, due diligence, tax issues, trade marketing and finance and logistics.

For additional information on the conference or to register, visit the conference Web site, call (504) 589-6703.


Economist Finds Recovery Uneven

Economist Dr. Loren C. Scott has released a report sponsored by Capital One, N.A., titled "Advancing in the Aftermath III: Tracking the Recovery from Katrina and Rita," which finds recovery remains mixed on the Gulf Coast in the wake of last year's hurricanes.

Employment statistics, sales tax collections, large construction projects and other key economic indicators point to an accelerating recovery in many Gulf Coast communities damaged by hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. Economic growth driven by construction and manufacturing in Pascagoula and Lake Charles, La., parallels the aggressive recovery patterns that most regions encounter following a major natural disaster.

Yet despite these improvements, the economic impact of Katrina and Rita continued to negatively affect key cities in the Gulf Coast region through the second quarter of 2006.
"Much of the recovery to date has been driven by construction in communities where money is available for repair and replacement of damaged structures and housing is available to accommodate an expanding work force," Scott said.

On Mississippi's Gulf Coast, Scott pointed to casinos in Biloxi-Gulfport and shipbuilding in Pascagoula as examples of progress. Scott said that legislation allowing casinos to be built along the shore rather than on the water and Gulf Opportunity Zone assistance programs provide strong incentives to accelerate rebuilding and new casino developments.

Overall, the report states that large industries and manufacturers, including shipbuilding operations and ports, have recovered faster than small businesses.