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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, May 5, 2006

Funding for flood at risk of veto

By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Staff Writer

The U.S. Senate yesterday passed an emergency spending bill that includes $37.5 million for storm damage response in Hawai'i, but it faces a possible veto by President Bush because its $109 billion total is significantly more than the president wanted to spend.

If rejected, it would be Bush's first veto since taking office.

Hawai'i's portion of the 2006 emergency supplemental appropriations bill is just a sliver of the total, which includes $66 billion for the war in Iraq and $29 billion for Hurricane Katrina relief. Those two items alone add up to more than the $94.5 million limit Bush set for the bill.

It also contains money to address bird flu, help fishing interests on the East Coast, move railroad tracks along the Gulf of Mexico, help farmers deal with high fuel prices, and much more.

"I would be very disappointed if the president were to veto the bill, and if the Republican majority upheld the veto," said Sen. Daniel K. Ino-uye. "The supplemental is more than what the president requested because the administration has consistently requested funds much lower than the actual cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and because the administration's previous budgets to address crucial social needs have been unrealistically low."

The House passed its own version of the emergency spending bill March 16, but kept it below the president's limit. The bills now go into a conference committee to iron out their differences. House Republican leaders have said they will chop the Senate bill down to meet the president's guideline.

Inouye noted that Bush declared Hawai'i a disaster area as a result of the February and March floods, which occurred mainly on O'ahu and Kaua'i. Inouye said that he hopes that declaration will help keep the flood response money in the bill.

The $37.5 million includes $20 million to repair Kuhio Highway, which was severely damaged at Wailapa by the floodwaters of the March 14 Kaloko dam breach, and other roads on Kaua'i and O'ahu.

It also has $7 million for aid to sugar growers and other farmers, $3 million to repair of an agricultural irrigation system and removal of debris from the Kaloko flood.

The money includes $3 million for debris removal and stream bank work on O'ahu, another $3 million for the Army Corps of Engineers to help cover its technical assistance costs, and $500,000 for the U.S. Geological Survey for work including establishing electronic water-level monitoring systems at dams.

A further $1 million is for water quality assessments following the Ala Wai-Waikiki sewer line rupture, and subsequent dumping of nearly

50 million gallons of raw sewage into nearshore waters.

Kaua'i Civil Defense coordinator Mark Marshall welcomed the passage of the funding bill. He said that residents can register for disaster assistance online at fema.gov or by phone at (800) 621-3362, and that FEMA expects to open disaster recovery centers on Kaua'i next week.

Reach Jan TenBruggencate at jant@honoluluadvertiser.com.