Missing from the Storm Sandy relief bill that cleared the U.S. House Tuesday: About $10 million to restore buildings damaged by the storm at the Stewart B. McKinney Wildlife Refuge on the Connecticut shoreline.
The money was removed by an amendment offered by U.S. Rep. John Fleming, a Republican from Louisiana, over the objections of two Democrats from Connecticut, Reps. Rosa DeLauro and Joe Courtney.
DeLauro called the measure “a vindictive amendment that needlessly slashes disaster relief for one particular state,” though she voted in favor of the overall bill because it provides “much-needed” disaster-relief for the state.
“Federal disaster relief is meant to restore homes, businesses, communities and federal facilities to their pre-disaster conditions,” DeLauro said. “We do this whether the disaster is a fire in the west, a tornado in the south, or a hurricane in the northeast. There is no good reason to make an exception of the McKinney Refuge. By cutting the funding needed to rebuild the Connecticut coastline to its pre-Sandy condition, this amendment prevents the McKinney Refuge from meeting its federal commitment to conserve wildlife and provide education and outdoor recreation for the public. This is a terrible precedent for disaster aid.”
The refuge, named for former Republican congressman Stewart B. McKinney of Connecticut, is comprised of 11 units and spans about 70 miles along the Connecticut coast. Sections of the refuge have been designated “Important Bird Areas” by the National Audubon Society.
Several seawalls and buildings on uninhabited islands within the refuge sustained damage from the storm, which struck the region last fall. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service put repair costs at about $9.8 million.
Courtney said he hopes the project will be funded in the future. “Given the fact that the proponent of the amendment comes from a state that received $71 million in wildlife restoration funds in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, this amendment is a bitter pill for a state like Connecticut—a donor state to the federal government,” he said.