Department of the Interior

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September 2, 2005
(202) 208-6415
Interior Mobilizes Employees, Expertise, Equipment to Help Victims of Hurricane Katrina

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of the Interior is deploying hundreds of employees, delivering water purification equipment and providing scientific and technical expertise to aid in the massive Hurricane Katrina recovery effort.

"We all have been staggered by the devastation that Hurricane Katrina has wrought upon the Gulf Coast Region," Interior Secretary Norton said. "Our hearts and our prayers go out to all of those who have lost their homes, their livelihoods, and even their lives in this catastrophic event. We are mobilizing the Department's emergency assistance to help residents of coastal areas devastated by this natural disaster."

About 400 employees from Interior agencies have been mobilized and dispatched to the Gulf area as part of the interagency response of the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) in Boise, Idaho. NIFC is composed of personnel from Interior's Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, along with the U.S.D.A. Forest Service and the National Association of State Foresters. The mobilized personnel, which include Incident Management Teams, hand crews and logistics specialists, will assist FEMA at sites across the affected Gulf coast area. They will remove fallen trees, manage staging areas for distributing supplies and begin the planning for long-term recovery.

The Bureau of Reclamation, which has expertise in civil engineering and construction for large-scale water management, is providing engineering assistance to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to help with levee breach repair efforts in New Orleans. Reclamation is prepared to send a water purification unit that can provide up to 200,000 gallons of drinking water per day. In addition, several hundred highly skilled Reclamation employees are being deployed to help with debris removal and housing repair, including temporary roofing installation.

U.S. Geological Survey-owned flat boats are delivering food and supplies and transporting people who were unable to evacuate flooded areas. USGS employees in Lafayette, La. are providing relief to the local community and to a refugee camp on the campus of the University of Louisiana. Using a variety of satellite and aerial photography, USGS geographers are providing coordinates and maps to link 911 calls and pinpoint exact areas where people need rescue.

USGS scientists are coordinating with federal agencies to provide geospatial information, maps, satellite images, and scientific assessments to help the recovery. The information provided includes aerial surveys of the levee breaks at the south end of Lake Pontchartrain. USGS hydrologic crews are conducting storm surge reconnaissance mapping along the I-10 corridor. USGS scientists have completed photography flights of the coast from Florida to Louisiana in order to determine changes in coastal elevation in areas including wetlands and barrier islands. .

The Minerals Management Service has provided 10 helicopters for search and rescue missions. The MMS, which manages the Gulf of Mexico oil and gas production, is working with energy companies to restore that production. Gulf energy production accounts for one-third of the total domestic energy production. MMS provides daily updates on the status of oil and gas platforms and production at the following website:

National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have each deployed hundreds of employees in response to the disaster. Many of these employees are providing humanitarian assistance to residents of the affected area, clearing roadways and establishing emergency corridors. In many cases, the employees have helped with rescue and evacuation efforts, sheltered victims and distributed food and water.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs is assisting the six federally recognized tribes in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi affected by the hurricane. BIA is assessing and responding to their public safety, emergency access and emergency services needs. For example, the BIA's Eastern Regional Office and Choctaw Agency are coordinating recovery efforts with the Mississippi Choctaw tribal government, whose facilities were severely damaged. The efforts include getting fresh water to the tribe, clearing debris from roadways, finding ways to bring in supplies of ice, fuel and food and assigning law enforcement personnel to protect lives and property.

The Department of the Interior's assistance priorities are to 1) assure public safety, emergency access and vital emergency services on Interior lands and for Tribal communities; 2) support the federal effort to assist state and local government emergency response; 3) assess damage to infrastructure and facilitate restoration of vital infrastructure and services.

As Katrina approached, Interior agencies activated their emergency plans, securing facilities and evacuating employees. There have been no reports of death or serious injury to Interior employees. However, the Department continues to account for employees who evacuated the area with their families.

The Office of Law Enforcement and Security is responsible for coordinating all emergency response efforts for the Department, including direct coordination with the Department of Homeland Security, FEMA, and other agencies and coordination of law enforcement resources.

More information on Interior's assistance efforts can be found at, which also provides links to updated reports on the specific efforts of DOI bureaus and offices.