Four months ago, state recovery officials and local fishing groups made a startling discovery: No official government program was in place to clear upended cars, boats and houses scattered across the marshes of south Louisiana by the 2005 hurricanes.

At the time, Coast Guard crews, with federal money from FEMA, had already removed tons of debris from shipping lanes and vital commercial corridors such as the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet. But that mission would wrap up in August, leaving a question mark for the remaining state waterways clogged with hurricane leftovers.

Countless meetings and planning sessions later, FEMA has formally pledged to pay for crews to remove the remainder of the debris. The scope is vast: prime fishing grounds throughout the state, from Calcasieu Lake in the west to Lake Borgne in the east, and stretching as far north as interstates 10 and 12.

But state recovery officials say they are still awaiting crucial details about whether the program will match debris-removal efforts in neighboring Mississippi, set to finish by the end of the year. Much of the remaining Louisiana debris is barely visible from the surface, posing an unseen hazard for boaters and fishers who run afoul of submerged houses and automobiles.

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