Department of the Interior

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September 7, 2005
(202) 208-6415
Interior Doubles Assistance Effort for Hurricane Katrina Recovery

WASHINGTON - More than 1,500 Interior employees are either on the ground helping in the rescue and relief efforts for the victims of Hurricane Katrina or are on their way to devastated coastal areas along the Gulf of Mexico to assist in the massive federal recovery effort.

The department's agencies are providing a range of expertise and equipment, from technical data that is helping the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to close levee breaches around Lake Ponchartrain , to search and rescue operations that locate survivors, conduct house-to-house searches and evacuate residents from flooded sections of New Orleans . Other Interior crews are clearing debris, bringing in food, water and medical supplies, helping to open roads, setting up temporary shelters for evacuees and operating staging areas for relief workers and recovery supplies.

About 775 employees from Interior agencies have been dispatched to the Gulf area as part of the interagency response of the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise , Idaho . Trained as firefighters, these disaster assistance workers assist FEMA in managing recovery efforts, clearing fallen trees and housing debris, distributing supplies and beginning the planning for long-term recovery. Interior employees deployed with the NIFC team are from the Bureau of Land Management , National Park Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. NIFC also sent additional firefighting aircraft to the region in case they are needed to fight fires in flooded areas of New Orleans .

The Bureau of Reclamation, which continues to help the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with engineering expertise in repairing breeches to Lake Ponchartrain levees and removing water from New Orleans , is mobilizing another 300 employees, including many from other bureaus, to assist the Corps with other recovery efforts, including removing debris and providing temporary roofing for damaged houses. Reclamation also has shipped a water-purification unit that can provide up to 200,000 gallons of drinking water a day. The unit was sent from Alamogordo , N.M. , to Waveland , Miss. , one of the hardest hit areas in the state.

The 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 specially trained emergency staffers are providing humanitarian assistance to residents of the affected area, clearing roadways and establishing emergency corridors to homes and families cut off by the storm. In many cases, the employees have helped local and state agencies with rescue and evacuation efforts, sheltered victims and distributed food and water. Park and refuge sites are being used as shelters and staging areas for search and rescue teams, supplies and equipment.

The FWS teams at Lacombe , La. , at the Big Branch National Wildlife Refuge continue to expand their community service activities (clearing roads) in the local community, Gulf Coast , and the North Shore of Lake Ponchartrain. On Aug. 31 and Sept. 1, for example, an eight-member FWS team with four boats rescued between 250 and 300 people from the mid-town area of the city. On Sept. 2, an interagency team of workers from FWS, USGS, NRCS, and NOAA, cooperating with FEMA, returned to New Orleans with 38 volunteers and 18 boats. Working alongside the search and rescue team from Phoenix , Ariz. , they rescued more than 100 sick and disabled individuals.

The NPS has deployed specially trained teams to several national parks in the affected region to provide recovery assistance and assure public safety as well as make park camping areas available for evacuees. These NPS Incident Management Teams are providing coordination for all Interior bureaus in New Orleans with the New Orleans Unified Command. The US Park Police helicopter EAGLE ( Bell 412) is preparing to deploy to the region.

The U.S. Geological Survey, working with state and local groups and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, used 22 boats and 20 staff members to carry out search-and-rescue operations and deliver food and water to those who could not leave flooded areas. Using satellite and aerial photos, USGS geographers are providing longitude and latitude coordinates and maps to pinpoint the exact location of 911 rescue calls. USGS has plotted coordinates for thousands of calls in southeastern Louisiana ; as many as 9,000 calls were plotted on a single day --Sept. 2. These were used by helicopter and boat rescue crews from 20 agencies who were able to locate the sites using Global Position System equipment or - if they did not have functioning GPS equipment - USGS maps that overlay geographic coordinates on grids of street addresses. (Street names and addresses are virtually useless in flooded areas.) USGS employees in Lafayette , La. , are providing relief to the local community and to displaced families on the campus of the University of Louisiana . USGS technicians are repairing and replacing damaged stream gauges in the region to restore flood-warning capacity; temporary gauges with satellite telemetry will track water level changes in flooded areas as pumping and drainage efforts proceed in New Orleans . USGS in widely distributing 1-foot-resolution color aerial photography of the 12,000-square-mile area affected by the storm and has released a 25-minute videotape of coastal impacts resulting from Hurricane Katrina along the coastline of the northern Gulf of Mexico .

The Minerals Management Service provided 10 helicopters, normally used for inspections of off-shore production platforms, for search-and-rescue missions. Key MMS employees from New Orleans have relocated to Houston and continue to work with energy companies to help restore oil and gas production. Oil production "shut-in" by the storm has gone from 95 percent on Aug. 30 to 58 percent on Sept. 6; daily gas shut-in production has gone from 88 percent to 42 percent. Of the 4,000 OCS production facilities, destroyed shallow water platforms accounted for only about 1 percent of total Gulf production. About 90 percent of Gulf oil production comes from facilities that suffered no or minor damage and this production could return to the market in a month if refineries, processing plants, pipelines and other onshore infrastructure are in place to receive, process and transport it. Safety systems worked to successfully shut-in production on the OCS platforms. MMS manages the Gulf of Mexico oil and gas production, which 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 Web site:

The Bureau of Indian Affairs is assisting federally recognized tribes in Alabama , Louisiana and Mississippi affected by the hurricane, responding to their public safety, emergency access and emergency services needs. The BIA's Eastern Regional Office and Choctaw Agency are coordinating recovery efforts with the Mississippi Choctaw tribal government, setting up shelters, providing law enforcement assistance, helping to clear debris from roadways, and bringing in supplies of ice, fuel and food. BIA's Office of Law Enforcement Services is assisting the Mississippi Band of Choctaw, whose Bogue Homa community was heavily damaged. BIA law officers are assisting the tribal police department with law enforcement and house-to-house searches to help families affected by the storm. OLES officers also have set up a unified command structure to coordinate law enforcement assistance efforts for the community as well as a mobile command and communications center. A number of tribes are providing law enforcement personnel to assist the Mississippi Choctaw. These include the Seminole Tribe of Florida; Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma; Miccosukee Tribe, Florida; and from Arizona, the Gila River Nation, Pima-Maricopa Community, Ft. McDowell Yavapai Nation, and Tohono O'odham Nation.

Twenty members of the Bureau of Land Management's Jackson ( Miss.) Hotshot Crew, many of whom suffered personal property damage to homes and vehicles, have been dispatched to clear roads in Mississippi National Forests where damaged trees and debris have made them impassable.

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.