Category A: Waterways

Category A: Waterways (1 of 5)

The next category of debris and eligibility considerations that will be discussed over the next five screens are debris located in waterways.

The Applicant should be aware of the Ports and Waterways Safety Act (33 U.S.C. 1221). This Act states that the U.S. Coast Guard is responsible for keeping waterways safe and open. While there is no specific language stating that the U.S. Coast Guard is responsible for debris removal from waterways, the U.S. Coast Guard has been tasked to assist in waterway and marine transportation system recovery. Public Assistance and U.S. Coast Guard have the specific authority to remove hazardous materials. Public Assistance reimburses for the removing of such material from inland water zones and U.S. Coast Guard is responsible for coastal water zones.

Debris removal from waterways that is necessary to eliminate the immediate threat to life, public health and safety, or improved property may be eligible to receive Public Assistance funding. Removal of debris in a waterway that does not meet this criterion is not eligible, even if the debris is deposited by the incident.

For FEMA to determine if debris removal from waterways is eligible, the Applicant must provide documentation that:

  • Establishes legal responsibility
  • Includes the basis of the immediate threat determination
  • Identifies locations, types, and quantities of debris
  • Demonstrates the debris claimed was deposited by the incident and was not pre-existing

Navigable Waterways

If the Applicant has legal responsibility for maintenance of a navigable waterway, removal and disposal of debris that obstructs the passage of vessels is eligible to a maximum depth of 2 feet below the low-tide draft of the largest vessel that utilized the waterway prior to the incident. Any debris below this zone is not eligible unless it is necessary in order to remove debris extending upward into an eligible zone.

Again, debris removal from federally maintained navigable waterways is not eligible the. U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have specific authorities for removal of hazardous substances, vessels, and other obstructions from federally maintained navigable waterways.

Non-navigable Waterways

Debris deposited by the incident may obstruct a natural waterway (a waterway not improved or maintained) or a constructed channel, including flood control works. Removal of the debris from the channel may be eligible if the debris poses an immediate threat, such as when the debris:

  • Obstructs, or could obstruct, intake structures
  • Could cause damage to structures, such as bridges and culverts
  • Is causing, or could cause, flooding to improved public or private property during the occurrence of a 5-year flood

Applicants should be aware of the Natural Resources Conservation Service and how it may impact their grant:

  • Removal of the obstruction may be eligible in streams where debris removal would also be eligible under the Natural Resources Conservation Service Emergency Watershed Protection Program unless Natural Resources Conservation Service provides assistance for the debris removal.
  • Debris removal from flood control works that are under the specific authority of Natural Resources Conservation Service is not eligible for Public Assistance funding, even if Natural Resources Conservation Service does not have sufficient funding or does not provide assistance.

Non-navigable Waterways

Additionally, the Applicant should be aware of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Rehabilitation and Inspection Program and how it may impact their grant:

  • Debris removal or flood control works may be eligible for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Rehabilitation and Inspection Program
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers does not reimburse Applicants for debris removal but conducts this activity directly when necessary

Identifying Debris Impact Locations and Documentation

The Applicant is responsible for identifying debris deposited by the incident that poses an immediate threat. The Applicant should work with the Program Delivery Manager to determine what documentation is required to demonstrate debris impact locations.

  • Random surveys to look for debris, including surveys performed using side scan sonar, are not eligible.
  • If the Applicant identifies an area of debris impacts and demonstrates the need for a survey to identify specific immediate threat, FEMA may provide Public Assistance funding for the survey in that location, including the use of side scan sonar.

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