The Collier County Board of County Commissioners achieved a major victory in a lengthy struggle with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) over reimbursement for beach restoration projects following Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma in 2005. The County was granted $7.7 million of additional funding for losses incurred during these events as a result of a decision signed this week in Washington, D.C. when FEMA substantially granted the County’s second appeal.
Earlier this year, $1.8 million was returned to Collier County for losses suffered during Hurricane Wilma. In total, the County received more than $9.6 million of the original deobligation amount of$11.1 million. The decision represents a significant victory for Collier County, according to Ernest B. Abbot, Collier County’s outside counsel.
Congressional Delegation member Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart, who led the appeal request, Congressman Curt Clawson and Senator Bill Nelson were all instrumental in addressing FEMA about the burden placed on local governments statewide in 2012 through deobligation, a process in which funding approved by the Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM) and subsequently approved and allocated by FEMA, was taken back automatically from the FDEM account for Collier County.
“Collier County indeed deserves this victory following a decade of struggle in addressing this issue,” said Board of County Commissioners Chairman Tim Nance. “Commissioners and county staff were engaged with our Congressional Delegation, and even coalesced with other local governments in Orlando in June 2014 where it was learned Collier County was not alone in these problems with FEMA.”
Collier County Coastal Zone Manager Gary McAlpin has been at the forefront of this recovery effort since Hurricane Wilma ravaged Collier County beaches 10 years ago. During the past decade, County Manager Leo E. Ochs, Jr., and Deputy County Manager Nick Casalanguida have joined McAlpin in efforts asking the federal government to reimburse the county for more than $11 million in costs associated with repairing Collier County’s public beaches which suffered extensive erosion due to Hurricane Wilma.
County officials also traveled to Washington, D.C. on separate occasions to meet with FEMA officials and met with FEMA Region IV officials in Atlanta.
“This has indeed been a monumental effort by an expansive team of professionals,” said Ochs. “The relentless energy of Collier County officials and the collaboration with others outside our agency who shared their invaluable expertise and knowledge make me very proud of these results. This is a well-deserved outcome.”
FEMA’s rationale in this week’s decision includes granting the precise amount requested by the County for sand loss: $6,149,099 for 203,356 cubic yards lost. The agency also granted $1,611,405for engineering, survey and environmental costs.
For more information call Gary McAlpin at (239) 252-5342. The FEMA Second Appeal decision is attached.