Schwarzenegger to make direct appeal to President Bush on levee funding

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger warned that the earthquake prone state was one storm or quake away from the disaster reaped on the Gulf Coast by Hurricane Katrina, and vowed to raise the issue with President George W. Bush at a meeting Friday.

Schwarzenegger said he would complain to Bush that the government had yet to respond to the state's request for federal emergency aid for the state's levee system, even after two Bush Cabinet members toured the levees by air.

In February, Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency for California's levees, designating 24 "critical erosion" sites in six counties. He asked for a federal emergency declaration two days later, but the Bush administration has so far failed to respond to that request.

"Right now we are one big storm or an earthquake away from a major disaster just like Katrina," Schwarzenegger said Thursday after participating in a state disaster exercise at the Office of Emergency Services operation center in suburban Sacramento. "Everyone seems to understand that but the federal government."

Schwarzenegger was scheduled to meet Bush on Friday in San Jose, where they were to make a joint appearance at Cisco Systems.

"I'm shocked at the federal government's lack of action and understanding on this issue," Schwarzenegger said at the emergency preparedness event.

A federal disaster designation would ease the way for state and federal water officials to repair the levees. State water officials on Thursday added five more critical levee sites to the governor's emergency declaration.

While he was in Washington for a meeting of the National Governors Association in February, Schwarzenegger also asked Bush aides to set aside $56 million (Ђ45.36 million) for levee repairs.

Bush has issued an unusual waiver that will allow the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to accept state money for critical levee repairs, a senior Bush administration official said Friday.

The kind of pre-emptive disaster declaration Schwarzenegger sought in February is very unusual, and "it doesn't move dirt," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the White House had not announced the decision.

On Saturday, Bush is scheduled to tour a fuel-cell technology plant in West Sacramento but without the governor, reports AP.

O.Ch.

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Author`s name: Editorial Team