Congress wanted FEMA to create an evacuation plan for New Orleans as early as eight years ago. Instead, the money ended up going to a study of a bridge over Lake Pontchartrain, and that study had very little to do with an evacuation plan. ("Money Earmarked for Evacuation Redirected").
The exact twists and turns of the money have yet to be determined.
...Congress in 1997 to set aside $500,000 for FEMA to create "a comprehensive analysis and plan of all evacuation alternatives for the New Orleans metropolitan area."
Frustrated two years later that nothing materialized, Congress strengthened its directive. This time it ordered "an evacuation plan for a Category 3 or greater storm, a levee break, flood or other natural disaster for the New Orleans area."
The $500,000 that Congress appropriated for the evacuation plan went to a commission that studied future options for the 24-mile bridge over Lake Ponchartrain, FEMA spokesman Butch Kinerney said.
The hefty report produced by the Greater New Orleans Expressway Commission "primarily was not about evacuation," said Robert Lambert, the general manager for the bridge expressway. "In general it was an overview of all the things we need to do" for the causeway through 2016.
Lambert said he could not trace how or if FEMA money came to the commission. Nor could Shelby LaSalle, a causeway consulting engineer who worked on the plan.
LaSalle said it would be "ludicrous" to consider his report an evacuation plan, although it had a transportation evacuation section, dated Dec. 19, 1997. That part was tacked on mainly to promote the causeway for future designation as an official evacuation route, LaSalle said.
"We didn't do anything for FEMA," he added...
James Lee Witt's spokesman claims that FEMA just passed the money through to the state.
[Former Rep. Billy Tauzin, R-La] said he, too, could never find out where the money went. "They gave it to the causeway commission? That's wacky," he said.
At the time eight years ago, the Louisiana delegation had plenty of political muscle to get the money. Then-Rep. Bob Livingston, R-La., was chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, which controls the government's purse strings.
Livingston, now a lobbyist, said he could not explain what happened either, although he knew of other predictive hurricane studies over the years.