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Federal Court Rules Corps Of Engineers Responsible For Worst Of Katrina

From The New York Times:

NEW ORLEANS -- A federal judge found Wednesday evening that poor maintenance of a major navigation channel by the Army Corps of Engineers led to some of the worst flooding after Hurricane Katrina. The ruling was a major victory for homeowners who suffered damage in the aftermath of the storm.

...The plaintiffs' lawyers argued that the Army Corps had not exercised "due care" in its maintenance of the channel, and that the maintenance that was done, like dredging, only made things worse. The corps' actions, they said, brought salt water into the New Orleans area, killing off marshes; eroded the banks on which levees sat; and more than doubled the channel in width, giving water driven by hurricanes an unobstructed path to the city.

In his decision, Judge Duval largely agreed with this argument, at least as it pertained to St. Bernard and the Lower Ninth Ward. He was highly critical of the government, which had argued that the hurricane and its massive storm surge was simply more than the system had been designed to handle, and said the corps had manipulated facts.

"The corps had an opportunity to take a myriad of actions to alleviate this deterioration or rehabilitate this deterioration and failed to do so," he wrote. "Clearly the expression 'talk is cheap' applies here."

Wizbang, specifically former editor Paul, was the first to present a detailed case as to the Corp's responsibility for the devastation starting just days after the event. You can read the two summation posts (here and here) or browse the Katrina archive.

As Paul noted when the damning evidence was first released, the fact that the blame has been assigned (and now adjudicated) is small comfort. Here's what he said,

Starting just days after the storm I began following this story and predicted this day would come when all the evidence was in. I also began documenting the repeated lies told by the Corps.

Within a few weeks of the storm I was demanding that more evidence be released because the evidence we had was damning the Corps. It was about a month and a half after the storm that the evidence became -to my mind- overwhelming. And the crusade began in ernest.

Thru that time, I've sparred with some readers who were legitimately skeptical of my conclusions and ALSO with more than one or two people I've since found out had connections to the Corps and were trying to discredit me. (yeah, you guys (and gal) are busted, now run along.)

I'll admit to being human. When I read the headline I got a certain satisfaction... That it was a "victory." And it was in some ways. It was a victory for the truth, it was a victory for the engineering profession and it was a victory for openness in government. (although that last one was a tight race)

But my joy at the "victory" was short lived. Very short lived. Because it changes nothing.

In the end, this story is not about engineering reports, politics or blame. It is about people. By the time the numbers are all in, it will be over well 2,000 dead. - And imagine the number they left grieving.

It is a story of 250,000 people -a quarter million- who lost their homes and all their possessions. You can drive thru the streets of New Orleans and see mile - after mile - after mile - of ruined homes, destroyed cars and untold debris. It goes on forever. I can put you in car and drive for 2 hours and not see one livable home.

Behind every one of those homes is a story. They are numbers to the rest of America. To us they are our neighbors, our friends, our families.

None of their lives will ever be the same. Ever.


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Comments (16)

I miss Paul. He's one of t... (Below threshold)
Edward Sisson Author Profile Page:

I miss Paul. He's one of the reasons I got interested in Wizbang all those years ago. I wish he was still writing posts here.

COE hates black people.... (Below threshold)
Pretzel Logic:

COE hates black people.

Assigning blame for a natur... (Below threshold)

Assigning blame for a natural disaster seems to me to be a rather silly endeavor.

Just one question: Who/what lobbied for a deeper/wider channels?

MjM, The flooding ... (Below threshold)

The flooding of SE La and New Orleans was NOT a natural disaster. THAT is the point. It was a man made disaster. And this country treated it as a political disaster, not the tragedy it truly was. It has changed the way I look at this country to this day. I miss Paul also. He spoke the truth of the flooding.

Building below sea level is... (Below threshold)

Building below sea level is a natural disaster waiting to happen. It's the same with building on the coast or building in a flood plain.

Is it the government's fault people choose to build in areas where nature can destroy their house on a regular basis? Nope.

The Federal Government, ... (Below threshold)

The Federal Government, the State of Louisiana, and the City and Parishes of New Orleans, spent many decades and untold dollars supposedly preparing for just such an event. Unfortunately there wasn't enough money to actually prepare and provide the political plums that were handed out.

Unfortunately there wasn... (Below threshold)

Unfortunately there wasn't enough money to actually prepare and provide the political plums that were handed out.

Yeah, you gotta have priorities, after all. If they'd really wanted the city protected, they'd have doubled the funding...

Well, okay, the lives of th... (Below threshold)

Well, okay, the lives of those who lost their homes in Katrina won't be the same. Ever.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. My son goes to school with a girl whose family lost everything in Katrina. They relocated here and are rebuilding, and love their new life.

I am distressed that you imply that people who suffer a loss can never be the same. We're Americans! My great-grandmother came west on a covered wagon and they suffered incredible hardships. Go re-read Little House on the Prairie or, better yet, The Long Winter. Suffering? Ha! We Americans can lose everything, roll up our sleeves and build it back, better than before.

Unless some are so owned by socialism that they're nothing more than pets awaiting the filling of their food bowls by the State. I guess there are people like that out there. Very sad.

Yayy Frazetta-girl! "Roll ... (Below threshold)
Edward Sisson Author Profile Page:

Yayy Frazetta-girl! "Roll up our sleeves and build it back, better than before." Great comment.

I read some posts several years ago from an American who lives in Brazil -- I forget who, or on what blog. But he made a point about imagine a huge catastrophe, like a terror nuke in New York City -- who would be hurt more permanently, the US or, for example, Brazil? The idea is, a great American city like New York benefits the whole world, not just New York, because of the concentration of human energy, productivity, etc., to the world economy.

He said Brazil would be hurt more -- because we Americans built New York City, and we would have the energy and know-how to build it again. But Brazil would just have to wait until we did -- they don't know how to make a replacement "New York" in Brazil.

Or remember the San Francisco earthquake & fire of 1906 -- San Francisco rebuilt so fast, in 1915 it hosted the Panama-Pacific International Exposition. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panama-Pacific_International_Exposition_(1915). There's another example. Or the 1994 Northridge Earthquake in the LA area -- rebuilding after that was super-fast, because the State of California and City of LA waived some of the usual bureaucratic rules and incentivized fast reconstruction. We're Americans -- this is what we do.

Edward, Since Pau... (Below threshold)

Since Paul is not here I will answer as the only New Orleanian present. This is what happened. NOTHING for 4 months, except what the citizens themselves could handle. Remember this is an entire evaculated destroyed city. There was no government on any level. EVERYTHING was done by citizens groups. By December we started seeing volunteer groups come and help. We were so thankful because we were depressed and exhausted by then. The government, you ask? We started seeing governmental action THREE YEARS after Armageddon. Now let me hear about "blaming Bush, being lazy, below sea level" and all the other excuses "Americans" have come up with to excuse the US government for (not a political party) not helping US citizens in desparate need. I am thrilled the judicial branch is FINALLY bringing some sort of justice to this event that hurt so many citizens. Maybe America will become a place I can be proud od again, because justice (right) will win out in the end.

Thanks, Doctorj, much appre... (Below threshold)
Edward Sisson Author Profile Page:

Thanks, Doctorj, much appreciated -- I hope you didn't take my comment as meaning we did a good job rebuilding New Orleans. We did not. But that failure was NOT consistent with the American way -- at least, the way the American way used to be -- and, with our effort, will be again.

Why does the US Government ... (Below threshold)

Why does the US Government (we the people) have to pay AGAIN for the irresponsible residents who didn't leave. The residents were ordered to evacuate DAYS BEFORE Katrina hit. The Government has already paid $billions to help rebuild damaged property in NO. insurance has also paid $billions. Why pay families of those who lost their lives, when those same families never bothered to evacuate those victims before the storm?

RM, Have you ever ... (Below threshold)

Have you ever considered that you know nothing of hurricane evacuation? You are an idiot to leave any more than 24 hours before impact. It is VERY expensive to evacuate, not to mention a real pain in the ass (and I say that as a Republican dentist, not as a welfare person. There is NO WAY for a person without means too evacuate.) The strom's course is covering 3 states at 48 hours. Insurance panicked with Katrina and covered NOBODY. They had record profits the year after Katraina (Because they paid NOBODY) and then tripled premiums on the people they did not cover. That is the reality, minus all the political spin. YOUR government is OWNED by the insurance industry and any other industry that can pay for campaign fees. I KNOW that now. I am sorry you don't and are willing to make excuses for the fact that is the way it is.

No Edward, I hold... (Below threshold)

No Edward,
I hold nothing against you. I just want the truth to be heard, as I am sure Paul did. I wore out and left before Paul. I see he finally wore out too. Next time something terrible happens in America, be sure to listen to the local Americans and not the party. I never again want to have Americans feel as abandoned as we felt.

Yes, and after y'all folks ... (Below threshold)

Yes, and after y'all folks get done gloating over how you caught big bad government demonstrating incompetence once again just think about all the billions of dollars of wealth that will be redistributed as a result of this-
that's what this is really all about-

daVE, What it is ... (Below threshold)

What it is all about is GREED. Greed that owns this government. The people of Louisiana want ACCOUNTABILITY of this governmnet to its citizens. I am sorry you don't understand that.






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