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Corps Admits They Destroyed New Orleans - Take II

Well the final, final, final report is in and the Army Corps of Engineers has accepted responsibility for destroying New Orleans.... Although it wouldn't be a Corps report after all if they didn't have a bit of disingenuous ass-covering mixed in.

Corps' own report blames inadequate levees for flooding

By Mark Schleifstein
Staff writer

The failure to build New Orleans area hurricane levees and levee walls as part of an integrated, well-fortified system doomed the region during Katrina and remains the key finding of a revised report released Monday by an Army Corps of Engineers-sponsored investigation team .

"The system did not perform as a system," concluded members of the Integrated Performance Evaluation Task Force, which has spent that past 19 months detailing the causes and effects of of Katrina's flooding on the levee system and the metropolitan area.

Katrina's storm surge found a wide variety of weaknesses resulting from the system being built as a series of individual projects -- problems such as low levee sections, weak links between levee projects and failed designs. Those individual failures resulted in water invading the entire protection system, the report concluded.

The whole point of engineering is to eliminate all possible points of failure. That's what engineers do. This admission by the Corps is -in engineering terms- an admission of complete incompetence. That their system failed in multiple ways only proves that they failed to do their job in multiple ways.

The Corps has been "bragging" since the storm that their hurricane protection system failed in several different and unique ways. I can only assume that not a single one of them understands that's a really bad thing to admit.

But watch the Corps' verbal Razzle Dazzle we've come to know and hate....

The report again concludes that "particularly inadequate" designs of levee walls along the 17th Street and London Avenue drainage canals resulted in their failure, despite storm surge water not overtopping them.

Had the New Orleans area levees been more formidable, such as with armoring or stronger levee walls, damage from Katrina would've been cut dramatically, the report said. It concludes, for example, that half the direct property losses, and much of the indirect damage to the city's economy from the flood, may have been averted if levees and walls had just been overtopped, but not breached.

Did you get that? They're still hinting that the floodwalls where overtopped and that was the big problem. Of course that's not true. The biggest failure was on a floodwall that was never overtopped. It failed before the storm really arrived. (video)

So -spin not withstanding- the damage they caused was much greater than half. (most estimates put it at greater than 75%)

[EXPLAINER: Some of the levees where overtopped AND breeched but they don't account for the majority of the damage, the floodwalls do and they where NOT overtopped. I know, it's confusing.]

The lawsuits against the Corps have crossed the $400 BILLION mark. I'm no legal scholar but they don't look to be in too good a position.

They're left arguing that their designed crumbled like a wet paper bag BUT they where not negligent. The problem of course is the mountains of data they ignored, the dozens of engineering standards they broke and that little problem of the full sized prototype failing but them building the project anyway. -- Which later failed with the exact same failure mechanisms as the prototype. That pretty much defines negligence.


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Comments (32)

Did you get that? They'r... (Below threshold)
Taltos:

Did you get that? They're still hinting that the floodwalls where overtopped and that was the big problem. Of course that's not true.

Huh ? Unless you're reading something other than what you quoted, it says that the damage would have been reduced if the levees were overtopped instead of being breeched. Not that they were overtopped.

And also lay the blame on t... (Below threshold)
spurwing plover:

And also lay the blame on the enviro-nazis and their stupid lawsuits over some species that dont exist

Paul,Congratulatio... (Below threshold)
Matt:

Paul,

Congratulations, you have been vindicated. What a report. It must of been very painful for them to write that. I am amazed that the Corps admits as much as they do. Even with the intense public scrutiny most agencies wouldn't admit failure to that level. Looks like the lawsuit might have a lot better chance than predicted.

Now, if we can get other federal agencies to be that forthcoming the govt would start to repair it's image.

>Huh ? Unless you're readin... (Below threshold)
Paul:

>Huh ? Unless you're reading something other than what you quoted, it says that the damage would have been reduced if the levees were overtopped instead of being breeched. Not that they were overtopped.

half the direct property losses, and much of the indirect damage to the city's economy from the flood, may have been averted if levees and walls had just been overtopped, but not breached.

Maybe you missed the part I bolded in this cut... They are STILL hinting that the walls where overtopped THEN failed. They tried for 10 months to claim this was true until dozens of experts proved otherwise and the video I linked above removed any and all doubt.

They still can't give up the spin.

And you didn't expect spin ... (Below threshold)
Scrapiron:

And you didn't expect spin from any government agency that has been located in La for so many years. Wait until they admit how many billions of dollars of taxpayer money is now in the bank in someone else's name. La has never been known for doing anything honest in my lifetime and i'm now 66.

Paul, no comment buddy ;)</... (Below threshold)
WildWillie:

Paul, no comment buddy ;)

They're still hint... (Below threshold)
kbiel:
They're still hinting that the floodwalls where overtopped and that was the big problem. Of course that's not true.

Of course the floodwalls were overtopped. If a floodwall collapses, the water still has to go over it. It's just that the water only has 3 feet of floodwall to over run instead of 16. ;)

Scrapiron you are aware the... (Below threshold)
Paul:

Scrapiron you are aware the Coprs is a federal agency huh?

Don't let facts get in the way of your hatred.

Sheesh. Taxpayers money do... (Below threshold)
BillyBob:

Sheesh. Taxpayers money down the drain, literally.

Pay the people off and don't spend another dime on rebuilding N.O.

Nagins's Chocolate City can return to it's natural marshland habitat and we won't have to waste any more taxpayers money on it.

Maybe you missed the par... (Below threshold)
Taltos:

Maybe you missed the part I bolded in this cut... They are STILL hinting that the walls where overtopped THEN failed. They tried for 10 months to claim this was true until dozens of experts proved otherwise and the video I linked above removed any and all doubt.

I saw it just fine, they're saying if floodwaters had only topped the levees and not breeched them that the damage would have been reduced ie. "if the assailant had just punched the victim instead of stabbing him he wouldn't be facing aggravated assault charges". The sentence is poorly worded but not trying to imply that the levees were overtopped. In the paragraph above it it flatly says levees weren't topped.

The Corp of Engineers and t... (Below threshold)
Wayne:

The Corp of Engineers and the rest of the federal government need to withdraw from NO and let them take care of their own problems. Obviously NO knows how to do it much better.

Never have figured why some... (Below threshold)
jhow66:

Never have figured why someone would live with a large body of water that was above thier heads.

Great post, Paul, but some ... (Below threshold)
Laura:

Great post, Paul, but some folks won't let the truth get in the way of the story.

Wayne, I wouldn't much mind if the Corps withdrew from New Orleans, given what they've done for us so far. But I'm a firm believer in the "you broke it - you bought it" policy.

For those advocating abandoning New Orleans, well, remember those post-Katrina gas prices? Would you like to just abandon the nation's second largest fishery? The world's busiest port? Did you know that we have not received the income from our oil/mineral rights like other states have since the Eisenhower administration? Care to guess how many billion dollars that represents that was taken out of our economy and added to the federal coffers? The rest of the country can pay it back; skip the interest and just pay back the principal and we should have ample funds to fix the damage the Corps wrought.

I love how the administrati... (Below threshold)

I love how the administration crows that the new levees will be even "better" than the old ones... which took 40 years to build... and catastrophically failed. High praise indeed! I guess New Orleanians are supposed to be happy about newer, partially armored Cat 3 levees that will be "better" than ever before.

Hooray!

Great report Paul. Two que... (Below threshold)
doctorj:

Great report Paul. Two questions. Are the levees armoured now? I don't think so. Do the pumps work yet? I don't think so. It is like they are doing everything in their power to make sure this disaster happens again. I guess then they can say "I told you so." What is killing a couple of thousand Americans to prove your political position. I know that is harsh, but I truly don't put anything past this government.

Just curious, if any of y'a... (Below threshold)
Laura:

Just curious, if any of y'all are from N'awlins...

Anybody else still having the occasional nightmare that you wake up in the middle of the night because the flood water is as high as your bed? I know half a dozen people with that, or similar nightmares.

But I'm a firm believer ... (Below threshold)
cirby:

But I'm a firm believer in the "you broke it - you bought it" policy.

So am I. So those people who were stupid enough to build in what everyone knew was going (in the short term) to be a massive, expensive flood plain should take at least part of the responsibility.

...and, since the proven best policy is well-known, everyone who lost a house to flooding in New Orleans should be barred from rebuilding in that same flood plain (this is how it's done in most places in the US, and New Orleans should certainly be no exception).

cirby, the flooding was ... (Below threshold)

cirby, the flooding was not a natural disaster. It was the greatest engineering failure in history. You've commented on many of Paul's posts on this topic, so I assume you've read them, and if you're still buying the "it's all Katrina's fault" story then I guess nothing will convince you. So I won't try.

Even if it were true - and it's not - that Katrina was the main problem here, the last major hurricane to hit us was Betsy in '67. Forty years is a pretty good interval, and if the Corps had done their job, we'd have gotten through Katrina with minimal damage because Katrina did not hit New Orleans; we only got brushed by it, and that was on the "good side" of the storm.

Attending a meeting with th... (Below threshold)
RicardoVerde:

Attending a meeting with the corps a few months ago (upriver at the Vicksburg office), I was struck at the near aura of fear that ran through the place. Every second or third sentence had "since Katrina" or "after Katrina" in it. Add to that the barricades installed since 9/11 and the place seemed almost Gulagish (Gulagish??).

I was once offered a job between Baton Rouge and Nawlins and was seriously considering the offer. They took me on a tour of their dock facilities and I noticed the river to be at about the same elevation as the houses on the other side of the levee. When asked about the river being "up" my guide responded that it was pretty much the normal level. I did not take the job. I consider it more than a bit foolish to live below a levee and at an elevation lower than the normal river level. Maybe it's just me.

cirby, the flooding was ... (Below threshold)
cirby:

cirby, the flooding was not a natural disaster. It was the greatest engineering failure in history.

No, it was a natural disaster, which was prevented for decades, until the inevitable engineering screwup let it happen. It's called, in every other place in the world, "building on a flood plain," and is one of the things you're Not Supposed To Do.

Depending on levees to keep you dry is gambling. Yes, the Corps made some mistakes in designing and building the levees, but the big mistake was in a city full of people deciding to live there. Even at that, the total levee failures were in less than one percent of the total linear feet of the structure...

We've known about the impending New Orleans flood for DECADES (I studied it in class, in detail, in the late 1980s). It's been flooded before. That area will be flooded again.

And yes, Paul has posted about it a lot, but he still has a "thing" about the Corps and how it seems to have all been their fault (instead of, say, Congress continually voting to fund only about half of the amount the Corps asked for each year for construction and maintenance - instead, they earmarked Corps funding for things like earthquake-proofing a greenhouse in San Fransisco).

Laura, a quick comment: I a... (Below threshold)
Wanderlust:

Laura, a quick comment: I am from Chalmette, and Betsy actually hit on 9 September 1965 (I was 9 days old at the time and our house got 4ft of water from it).

Paul, IMHO, regardless of whether the USACoE is a Federal agency (which of course it is), the ones who were responsible for this engineering clusterf*ck were located in the Great State of Louisiana. In my opinion, that made them subject to the vagaries of local politics, and yes, you and I will both admit that Louisiana politics is as dirty as it gets, albeit stylishly so (at times).

And to think that I thought no one could top the Bechtel/Parsons-Brickerhoff(sp?) JV of BigDig fame for engineering clusterf*cks...but the USACoE gave us both the hurricane protection levees and MRGO. It's analagous to playing russian roulette with several chambers loaded, in more than one gun - getting shot (to use the analogy) was a certainty.

Final thought: if that batch of lawsuits (climbing above $400bn) do win, it will be the same band of incompetents who played games with funding levee construction that will pay out lawsuit claims. Don't hold your breath.

cirby,If you want ... (Below threshold)
Paul:

cirby,

If you want people to abandon "flood plains" then we'd have to abandon about 2/3 of the land in the U.S. Including the land the whitehouse is on.

Do me a favor, say something intelligent or STFU.

>Paul ... still has a "thin... (Below threshold)
Paul:

>Paul ... still has a "thing" about the Corps

Yeah cirby, they killed 1200 people and destroyed a city and I hold a grudge... Damn narrow minded of me I know....

===============

>..and how it seems to have all been their fault (instead of, say, Congress continually voting to fund only about half of the amount the Corps asked for each year

Cirby your ignorance of the topic is exceeded only by your willingness to share it.

As I have documented several times on this site... At the start of the project, Congress asked the Corps how much they needed... The Corps gave them an amount. (I think it was 70 million I forget)

Again and again the Corps went back to Congress and asked for more money. Every time Congress wrote the check. By the time it was done the Corps exceeded their budget (literally) 20 times over.

Congress wrote the check.

You can try to say it is Congress' fault they did not have enough money, but you're either wrong or you're lying.

Congress gave them 20X what they originally asked for and the Corps STILL flooded the town.

Once again, I respectfully ask you say something intelligent or STFU.

>Paul, IMHO, regardless of ... (Below threshold)
Paul:

>Paul, IMHO, regardless of whether the USACoE is a Federal agency (which of course it is), the ones who were responsible for this engineering clusterf*ck were located in the Great State of Louisiana.

ahem.. Vickbreg MS actually, but you're close.

Wanderlust, thanks for the ... (Below threshold)

Wanderlust, thanks for the correction on Betsy's date. I didn't bother to look it up, I was just going from memory. Next time I'll check. :-)

cirby,So those pe... (Below threshold)

cirby,
So those people who were stupid enough to build in what everyone knew was going (in the short term) to be a massive, expensive flood plain should take at least part of the responsibility.

I'll be sure and tell someone to exhume those people who were "stupid enough" to build my raised house 100 years ago and give em a good whippin'. Strange how it never flooded before. Also strange that when I had it surveyed in 2000 that it was 2.2 ft above Base Flood Elevation. You know, the 100 year flood plain.

and, since the proven best policy is well-known, everyone who lost a house to flooding in New Orleans should be barred from rebuilding in that same flood plain (this is how it's done in most places in the US, and New Orleans should certainly be no exception).

So are you advocating relocation assistance as was granted after the Mississippi River Floods in 1993 -- an entirely natural event that was not a result of engineering design failures?

Shall we place a moratorium on building in "flood plains"?

Yeah cirby, they killed ... (Below threshold)
cirby:

Yeah cirby, they killed 1200 people and destroyed a city and I hold a grudge..

No, they managed to save hundreds of thousands of people, for decades, and due to a lack of funding (to actually do the things you want them to do), the levees broke.

As I have documented several times on this site... At the start of the project, Congress asked the Corps how much they needed... The Corps gave them an amount. (I think it was 70 million I forget)

In 1950 dollars?

Funny - the news articles I find tell of a CUT in the New Orleans budget (for requests by the Corps of $71.2 million for 2005.

And no, they never asked for 70 million and got twenty times that in any year. Their total civil works budget for the entire country for 2005 was only $4 billion.

According to New Orleans CityBusiness, " The House of Representatives wants to cut the New Orleans district budget 21 percent to $272.4 million in 2006, down from $343.5 million in 2005. The House figure is about $20 million lower than the president's suggested $290.7 million budget."

Note that the District includes all of Louisiana, and includes things like dredging the Mississippi and other fun projects like the Old River Control Structure (and other works) - and if they let that one go, New Orleans would be doomed in a completely different fashion, since the Mississippi would avoid the city altogether.

The only way you could get the sort of numbers you're talking about would be to cut every other part of their budget for the District, then add up several years of total outlay. Of course, this would doom New Orleans in several other ways, but the levees would still get some cash.

Again and again the Corps went back to Congress and asked for more money. Every time Congress wrote the check. By the time it was done the Corps exceeded their budget (literally) 20 times over.

No, they really didn't. They did on a couple of small projects, but NEVER, by any stretch, did the Corps have a $70 million budget for New Orleans levees and spend $1.4 BILLION (over one-third of their actual budget for the entire civilian Corps for a typical year).

To do what you want (real flood protection for the New Orleans basin for a real hurricane), you're talking several BILLION dollars per years, for several years - and Congress would never have considered it until the events of late 2005.

And no, Congress never even suggested that they'd let the Corps write that sort of check and cover it afterwards. Anyone who says that is dreaming.

>No, they managed to save h... (Below threshold)

>No, they managed to save hundreds of thousands
>of people, for decades

Save them from what? There were no major hurricanes to save them from. Furthermore, when the levees started seeping - not coincidentally, right where the breaks happened - a year prior to Katrina, the Corps ignored the homeowner's complaints.

I'll be sure and tell so... (Below threshold)
cirby:

I'll be sure and tell someone to exhume those people who were "stupid enough" to build my raised house 100 years ago and give em a good whippin'. Strange how it never flooded before.

...as far as you know. Of course, since most of New Orleans is several feet lower down than it was 100 years ago (and yes, that's public knowledge), assuming that "never" is a big problem.

Also strange that when I had it surveyed in 2000 that it was 2.2 ft above Base Flood Elevation. You know, the 100 year flood plain.

...and you got flood insurance, right?

If you didn't, then you made a huge mistake, and if they wouldn't LET you get flood insurance, you were NOT above the 100 year flood plain. Right after Katrina, I went online and looked at the various flood elevations for New Orleans, and almost all of the areas that got flooded were well within the 100 year flood plain.

The Corps was right in the middle of reevaluating the 100 year flood plain for NO at the time of Katrina, by the way.

You might also talk to the people who surveyed it for you, and find out if they, you know, screwed up...

So are you advocating relocation assistance as was granted after the Mississippi River Floods in 1993 -- an entirely natural event that was not a result of engineering design failures?

Yes. Within reason. And if those people get money, one of the rules is that they cannot rebuild in the same location.

Shall we place a moratorium on building in "flood plains"?

Yes. In most of the US, we effectively have already, due to the restrictions on the NFIP and by banks and mortgage institutions. If you still want to build in a place that's going to wash your house away every couple of decades, then pay for the risk - don't ask me to do that for you.

cirby my man... you're a... (Below threshold)
Paul:

cirby my man... you're an idiot.

=========

According to New Orleans CityBusiness, " The House of Representatives wants to cut the New Orleans district budget 21 percent to $272.4 million in 2006, down from $343.5 million in 2005. The House figure is about $20 million lower than the president's suggested $290.7 million budget."

You might remember Katrina hit in 2005 and the PROPOSED budget cut you're saying caused the walls to collapse was from 2006, a year later.

You're talking about a budget after the Corps had already killed 1200 people and destroyed the city.

Learn to freaking google.

AGAIN I ASK... Say something intelligent or shut the fuck up.

cirby my man... you're a... (Below threshold)
Paul:

cirby my man... you're an idiot^2.

==============

Scott said: Shall we place a moratorium on building in "flood plains"?

You replied: Yes. In most of the US, we effectively have already, due to the restrictions on the NFIP and by banks and mortgage institutions.

That must have hurt when you pulled it out your ass...

U.S. relaxes flood plain construction rules
Updated: 1:32 p.m. CT March 12, 2007

WASHINGTON - The Bush administration will allow some construction of homes, shops, schools, prisons, hospitals and other buildings in flood plains without formal environmental reviews, despite the lessons of Hurricane Katrina.

New regulations issued Friday by the Army Corps of Engineers also let homebuilders and other developers skip the reviews before filling in or altering the course of some small streams. ...

Known as Corps "nationwide permits," the new regulations clear the way for broad types of development under the Clean Water Act as long as they have minimal harm on the environment. The regulatory updates are required every five years by Congress. The last updates in 2002 were set to expire this month.

AND....

FLOODPLAIN DEVELOPMENT QUESTIONED
Monday, January 30, 2006

Developers of a tract in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta east of Mount Diablo don't worry that the land is 6 feet below sea level and kept dry by a system of pumps and aging levees not considered adequate for urban growth. ...

Driven by the demand for new housing from the Bay Area to Sacramento, tens of thousands of homes are planned on land that state and federal officials say is among the most threatened with catastrophic flooding in the nation. In Oakley and elsewhere, developers and city officials claim the new levees will protect people far better than existing levees, which California's political leaders say are crumbling.

Your statement that we have effectively placed a moratorium on building in "flood plains" is about as accurate as anything else you've said. -- It's dead freaking wrong.

==============

I've changed my mind

Don't shut the fuck up..... PLEASE keep talking. You're only proving how completley ignorant you really are.

PLEASE.. keep talking. It's starting to be fun.

...as far as you know. O... (Below threshold)

...as far as you know. Of course, since most of New Orleans is several feet lower down than it was 100 years ago (and yes, that's public knowledge), assuming that "never" is a big problem.

I personally gutted my house to the studs. It has never flooded prior to Katrina.

And do provide us a (credible scientific) link show that "New Orleans is several feet lower down than it was 100 years ago".

...and you got flood insurance, right?

That's why the survey was done. It's called a "flood elevation certificate" and it shows the height of the lowest floor relative to BFE for the location of the property. As I said, I was 2.2 ft above BFE and flooded another 1.5 feet. Flood insurance was required to get a mortgage

You do realize that N.O. has one of the highest rates of flood insurance adoption in the country? The people who didn't have it were people who didn't have a mortgage and had never flooded before anyway or those who were not in a flood plain where it was required.

The BFE is in part altered by the existence of the flood protection system. It assumes that the flood protection system is properly designed and maintained by the ACoE.

As far as your assertions about moving and/or rebuilding in a flood plain. There are rules about "repetitive" flooding and there are funds (Increased Cost of Compliance) to raise a house above BFE if the property is below BFE in the first place and it was damaged more than 50% by the flood event. If you are below BFE, flood insurance simply costs more.

You clearly have no idea how NFIP actually works.




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