Department of the Interior

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Office of the Secretary
January 25, 2006
Contact: Frank Quimby

Interior Employees Recognized for Contributions to Gulf Coast Hurricane Response and Recovery Operations

WASHINGTON-- Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton today honored hundreds of Interior employees for their extraordinary efforts in helping Gulf Coast residents respond to last year's devastating hurricanes and rebuild their communities and lives.

"Our employees worked not only to protect and recover federal assets, but also to help Gulf Coast residents recover from the unprecedented destruction these horrific storms inflicted on their communities," Norton said at an afternoon ceremony at the Main Interior Building. "The men and women we recognize today served others at great cost. They are true heroes." Norton told the employees, "We honor your courage, your dedication, and your sacrifice. With grateful hearts, we salute you."

The honorees represented the more than 6,000 Interior employees who have contributed to the Gulf Coast recovery effort for varying lengths of service during the past five months. They provided emergency management, scientific and engineering and law enforcement assistance under the National Response Plan and carried out the department's substantial responsibilities for the public lands and facilities it manages in the area.

Because of their training and preparedness, not a single Interior employee was killed or injured by Katrina. More than 200 Interior employees continue to provide assistance to Gulf Coast communities.

Interior has significant responsibilities in the areas devastated by Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma. The Minerals Management Services manages the Gulf of Mexico oil and gas production that accounts for nearly one-third of total domestic energy production. The National Park Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service manage dozens of park units and refuges in the area. The Bureau of Indian Affairs works with local tribes. And the U.S. Geological Survey carries out critical stream-gauge monitoring, vital to providing advance warning of floods.

Employees from the following bureaus and offices were recognized:

Office of Wildland Fire Coordination: firefighters from Interior bureaus and other federal, state and local agencies provided the backbone of the Department's emergency management response, logistical organization and daily operations under the Firefighting Function of the National Response Plan;

Bureau of Indian Affairs: provided more than 500 employees;

Bureau of Land Management: deployed more than 400 highly trained workers;

Bureau of Reclamation: coordinated Interior's Public Works and Engineering Emergency Support Function of the National Response Plan;

National Park Service: mobilized more than 1,500 of its employees and 400 pieces of equipment to provide help to storm-damaged national parks and to FEMA under the National Response Plan;

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: employees responded to hurricanes Katrina and Rita with a wide range of vital assistance to hard-hit refuges and local communities. They helped in the rescue and evacuation of several thousand city residents trapped by rising water;

U.S. Geological Survey: Storm team employees put satellite technology to use, laying maps over flooded roads to guide emergency responders, as well as helping evacuate survivors. USGS technicians installed, repaired and replaced stream gauges to measure the flooding and to restore flood-warning capacity;

Minerals Management Service: employees, many of whom lost their homes and personal possessions to the storms, carried out their critical responsibilities with exemplary skill and dedication, far beyond the call of duty;

Office of Law Enforcement and Security: managed the Emergency Management Council and coordinated the deployment of teams of law enforcement personnel from the Bureau of Land Management and the Fish and Wildlife Service under ESF-13 ? Public Safety and Security;

Office of Environmental Policy and Compliance: coordinated the Department's responsibilities under ESF10 ? the Oil and Hazardous Materials Response and the National Oil and Hazardous Substance Pollution Contingency Plan and ESF 11 ? Agriculture and Natural Resources;

Office of Surface Mining: provided 25 volunteers to help clean up debris in the Beaumont, Texas, area;

Office of Inspector General: provided several employee volunteers to participate in the hurricane Katrina, Rita and Wilma relief and recovery efforts;

Office of Occupational Health and Safety: Captain Tim Radtk, chief industrial hygienist, made significant contributions in establishing the employee vaccination program, respiratory protection measures and exposure assessment in the early days of the response.