Thursday, November 22, 2007

FEMA tanks aquarium recovery

NEW ORLEANS -- 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 aquarium replaced the dead fish using hooks and nets at a cost of $100,000.

''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,'' said disaster manager Warren Eller.

FEMA's refusal to reimburse the aquarium is grounded in a law that says facilities can only be returned to their pre-disaster condition, not improved. The aquarium would have to buy fish of the approximate age and size of the lost specimens.