No Good Deed...
In what some see as another bureaucratic absurdity after Hurricane Katrina, FEMA is refusing to pick up the cost of restocking New Orleans' aquarium because of how the new fish were obtained: straight from the sea.
FEMA would have been willing to pay more than $600,000 for the fish if they had been bought from commercial suppliers. But the agency is balking because the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas went out and replaced the dead fish the old fashioned way, with hooks and nets. That expedition saved the taxpayers a half-million dollars but did not comply with FEMA regulations.
"You get to the point where the red tape has so overwhelmed the process that there's not a lot you can do to actually be effective," Warren Eller, associate director of the Stephenson Disaster Management Institute at Louisiana State University, said of FEMA's actions.
Katrina knocked out power to the tourist attraction at the edge of the French Quarter in August 2005, and the staff returned days four days later to find sharks, tropical fish, jellyfish and thousands of other creatures dead in their tanks.
Aquarium officials wanted to reopen the place quickly. So even before the $616,000 commitment from the Federal Emergency Management Agency came through, they sent a team on an expedition to the Gulf of Mexico, the Florida Keys and Bahamas, where they caught 1,681 fish for $99,766.
Despite the clear savings, the dispute has dragged on for 17 months.
"FEMA does not consider it reasonable when an applicant takes excursions to collect specimens," FEMA quality control manager Barb Schweda wrote in a 2006 e-mail. "They must be obtained through a reputable sources where, again, the item is commercially available."
And these are the folks who haughtily had the nerve to lecture Louisiana about "corruption" (while managing to lose--literally--TONS of cash in Iraq). These are the folks who snidely yank out their clipboards and bark about rules or regulations, even as they move mountains...or even more astonishingly, cut short The Decider's vacation when the issue is deemed "worthy."
They better hope there ISN'T a God...because otherwise She would be PISSED.