Massive amounts of hurricane wreckage remain on the Gulf Coast -- enough that if piled atop a football field it would reach almost two miles into the air.
Yet the Bush administration says it can't clear it quickly without trampling private property rights.
Local officials say that, with hurricane season under way, the delay could hamper another government duty -- public safety.
Ten months after Hurricane Katrina, about one-sixth of the debris that littered Gulf Coast communities remains. That's an estimated 20 million cubic yards.
Much of the rubble is from damaged homes and businesses the Federal Emergency Management Agency says it can't clear away without approval from property owners and insurers.
And now, FEMA's deliberating whether to continue paying the full cost of removing debris in the hurricane disaster area under a program slated to end Friday. Without the extra aid, Washington would pay for 90 percent of debris removal costs, with local governments picking up the rest.
New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and four Southeast Louisiana parish leaders say they can't afford to start paying even that share.
FEMA estimates it's paid three-point-six (B) billion dollars so far for the Army Corps of Engineers and contractors to clear more than 98 (M) million cubic yards of debris from Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. FEMA says nearly all the remaining wreckage is in Louisiana and Mississippi.
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