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Federal Judge Says Corps of Engineers Liable For Katrina Damage 486

Posted by timothy
from the too-bad-a-judge-didn't-do-the-engineering dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "The Christian Science Monitor reports that a federal judge has ruled that the Army Corps of Engineers — and thus the US government — is liable for a big chunk of the damage caused when hurricane Katrina pushed ashore on August 29, 2005 by failing to stop the natural widening of the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet canal (aka Mr. Go) causing it to eventually bump up against the shore of Lake Borgne, on the city's east side. 'It is the court's opinion that the negligence of the corps, in this instance by failing to maintain the MR-GO properly, was not policy, but insouciance, myopia, and shortsightedness,' wrote US District Court Judge Stanwood Duval. Judge Duval said he believed it was the failure to shore up the outlet that 'doomed the channel to grow to two to three times its design width' allowing waves on Lake Borgne to enter the Mr. Go and travel into the east side of the city, battering the levees to a degree to which they were not designed. 'One of the greatest catastrophes in the history of the US' was both predictable and preventable, testified veteran Louisiana geologist Sherwood Gagliano, a former Corps consultant."
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Federal Judge Says Corps of Engineers Liable For Katrina Damage

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  • Re:What? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Walzmyn (913748) on Friday November 20, 2009 @08:24AM (#30170170)

    While I agree that trying inhabit the New Orleans area is rather stupid, this ruling was pretty specific about this particular canal's design and maintenance. Apparently residents and city officials have been complaining about this thing since a 1965 hurricane that did a miniature version of what Katerina did and have been begging the Corp to change the canal to prevent exactly what happened.

    That's what I got from some extensive radio news coverage yesterday.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 20, 2009 @08:31AM (#30170230)

    "Federal Judge Says Corps of Engineers Liable For Katrina Damage"

    Patently untrue, the levees collapsed [google.com] because they were built cheaply, in such a way that they couldn't withstand a catagory three Hurricane ...

    I think you need to go back and read that page a little more clearly. He talks about Zionist movements and mentions several Zionist conspiracy theories. It's quite hard to take a site like that even a little bit serious.

  • by viralMeme (1461143) on Friday November 20, 2009 @08:34AM (#30170248)
    "by 2003 the federal funding for the flood control project essentially dried up as it was drained into the Iraq war. In 2004, the Bush administration cut funding [salon.com] requested by the New Orleans district of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for holding back the waters of Lake Pontchartrain by more than 80 percent.

    Additional cuts at the beginning of this year (for a total reduction in funding of 44.2 percent since 2001) forced the New Orleans district of the Corps to impose a hiring freeze. The Senate had debated adding funds for fixing New Orleans' levees, but it was too late"
  • Re:What? (Score:5, Informative)

    by UnknowingFool (672806) on Friday November 20, 2009 @08:41AM (#30170294)
    Well it's no accident that the 9th ward was hard hit; the whole ward didn't exist until it was dredged from the river. Basically it used to be a flood plain.
  • Re:What? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Rob the Bold (788862) on Friday November 20, 2009 @08:43AM (#30170310)

    no but they at least know how to build levee's and dam's

    I dunno, build levee's and dam's what?

  • by rs232 (849320) on Friday November 20, 2009 @08:51AM (#30170374)
    "While Katarina was ongoing, there were plenty of independent news outlets running video footage of professionals warning what would happen. It made the Bush mantra of "No one could have predicted..." out to be just as much of a joke as the "No one could have predicted..." 9-11 version. (And then the Aug 6th PDB title was released.)"

    Exactly, so how a Judge could belatedly blame the Army Corps of Engineers, defies logic. Of course he couldn't every state the real reasons. That the levees failed because of their flimsy construction and funding was denied to pay for Bushs war in Iraq. Not only that Bush was warned in advance [msn.com] about Katrina, but took no action.

    "President Bush is expected to shift [nola.com] $1.3 billion away from raising and armoring levees, installing floodgates and building permanent pumping in Southeast Louisiana in order to plug long-anticipated financial shortfalls in other hurricane-protection projects, a move Sen. David Vitter describes as a retreat from the president's commitment to protect the whole New Orleans area"
  • Re:Pay no attention! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Nadaka (224565) on Friday November 20, 2009 @08:52AM (#30170382)

    Its paranoia, but partially justified paranoia. In 1927 they did blow the levee to prevent economic damage to New Orleans (and causing a flash flood that killed several people south of the city).

    They did it once? why not do it again? The circumstances were different, and it wouldn't work this time. And the water wouldn't have anywhere to go. The "rich" french quarter was "saved" by being the oldest part of the city, built on dry land before the levees and higher than the rest of the city. Its a ridiculous notion, and not correct, but sometimes ridiculous things happen.

  • by ScentCone (795499) on Friday November 20, 2009 @09:04AM (#30170510)
    funding was denied to pay for Bushs war in Iraq

    Ah. So, back in the 1990's, when Clinton was running things, and the design wasn't any better and local engineers were saying the same things, that was different? I see. It's different because of your politics, not because of reality. The levees weren't built to withstand a Katrina. That reality goes back well before Bush. Of course you know that, and you're a troll.

    Your heros on the left could have spent money to change the levee construction for years and years before Katrina hit. Why didn't they? Well? Did they somehow know that years later, Bush would come into office with pre-existing, poorly built protections around a city that had spent decades making the problem worse - and they were somehow pre-blaming Bush for later political advantage? Sounds about right.

    Also, it's Bush's fault that your coffee wasn't very good this morning, and that the traffic lights in your area aren't synchronized very well.
  • Re:What? (Score:5, Informative)

    by AlecC (512609) <aleccawley@gmail.com> on Friday November 20, 2009 @09:11AM (#30170582)

    Particularly, in the two years immediately before Katrina, a huge amount of the Corps budget ($2-300 milllion, IIRC) was switched to funding the occupation of Iraq because, since it was already Army money, it could be switched without permission of Congress. Which puts the blame squarely on the Adminstration, rather than the Corps of Engineers. And also shows how silly it is to have what is basically a civil job being done by the Army.

  • Re:Fuck Yeah! (Score:3, Informative)

    by HisOmniscience (1361001) on Friday November 20, 2009 @09:14AM (#30170614)
    Cause it's not the poors' fault that they decided to drop out of school, not use contraceptives, raise their children in single parent homes, and continue to rely on welfare.

    (Anecdote: my class had a 58% graduation rate... and that's normal for my area.)
  • by Attack DAWWG (997171) on Friday November 20, 2009 @09:42AM (#30170908)

    . . . the day before the Federal Government did. See the second paragraph in this [google.com] link.

    Also, see this [wikipedia.org] link for how they requested federal assistance and how the Feds botched it up.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 20, 2009 @09:42AM (#30170914)

    insouciance, myopia, and shortsightedness

  • Re:What? (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 20, 2009 @10:07AM (#30171206)

    Then why, since it effects them directly, did NO not raise the money (via taxes) and fix the damn levee themselves? Oh right. They want everyone else to pay so that they can live in NO.

  • Re:What? (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 20, 2009 @10:23AM (#30171412)

    How about the fact that the Corps asked Congress for money to improve the Levee system for 20 years and had it denied for 20 years? If there's no budget, there's not much you can do.

    I think the blame more properly lies with Congress, not the Corps of Engineers.

  • feds (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 20, 2009 @10:37AM (#30171600)

    The federal government runs the trains-amtrak- and shut them down well before they could have evacuated a lot more people. The federal government are the ones who denied out of NOLA private parties in huge numbers who convoyed down with boats to help evacuate the access they needed to get in there and do their volunteer work. Stopped them cold at a roadblock and told them to turn around, go back, while people where clinging to rooftops, etc. The federal government used helos and other transport to ship in those disgusting blackwater mercenaries instead of using those helos to evac people. And they were warned repeatedly over the years that the levees and dams were inadequate for larger than a level 3 hurricane. Completely ignored it.

    As to where people live, there are natural hazards EVERYWHERE. You are going to force people out of earthquake country, or tornado country, etc, or how about wildfires, icestorms, etc?

    And so on, the feds have a huge hand in this disaster.

  • Re:What? (Score:2, Informative)

    by kirillian (1437647) on Friday November 20, 2009 @10:40AM (#30171638)
    True...I was also born poor too...and there is a little truth to both sides...there are a whole bunch of people who get ahead in life on the back of others' efforts. However, the ones who cry "I'm a victim!" and don't even make the effort to help themselves. Both sides are at fault here. I'm where I'm at because I worked my ass off and kept pushing even when it was exceptionally hard. Many people I grew up with did not. Many just gave up and are stuck in their own little vicious cycle in and out of jail. At the same time, it has ALWAYS bothered me how easy it was for some of the people that I met who just threw money at every problem to get by. Bitterness doesn't really help you much in life though. Just get up off your butt and try again. Stop enabling the self-proclaimed victims. I wish I could ask people to stop accepting bribes, but that's never gonna happen.
  • by sjbe (173966) on Friday November 20, 2009 @10:51AM (#30171784)

    They probably didn't even know they were below sea level.

    I don't buy that bit of excuse making for a second. If they didn't know they damn well should have known. It's not as if it was a secret.

    What is your town's elevation? Hell, Cahokia IL is smack in the middle of the midwest and it's only 400 feet above sea level.

    About 630ft in my case. If I get flooded animals will be lining up in twos.

    And a lot of people, especially the poor, don't have much of a choice where they live.

    Only the children and the handicapped. I've been poor myself but even poor people can move in the US. It isn't as easy as for those with means but its entirely possible. Even poor people in the US aren't generally so poor they can't relocate. It might be hard but most definitely have a choice.

    But the disaster in N.O. was caused by the Corps of Engineer's incompetence.

    Since the Corps of Engineers has had plans for DECADES to fix the problems and was never given the funds to make it happen, exactly how is that the ACoE's fault? Yes they bear some responsibility but the majority of the fault lies with the people who lived there and chose not to take responsibility themselves. If you live near a danger and do not constantly prod your government to mitigate that danger then the fault lies mostly with you. If the government won't fix it then move elsewhere. It's not that complicated.

    It's scary; I have friends in the St Louis area. I just saw in the paper yesterday that the levees in Alton, IL are in bad shape. I hope the one in Caholia is good, I have friends there. When the hundred year flood hit in the nineties, the Mississippi was at the top of the levee there.

    I lived in St Louis for several years. The people that live in the Mississippi and Missouri flood plain are pretty well aware of the dangers. If you live near a big river like that it is basically impossible to contain the biggest floods. There have been 3 very large floods in the last hundred years in the Saint Louis area and you can be sure that there will be another in the next 50-100 years. I have friends with property right on the Mississippi. They are insured as much as possible and they have evacuation procedures in place for their property. They are as prepared as they can be. Only a moron would assume that fellow citizens should subsidize your risk taking activities.

  • Re:What? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Buelldozer (713671) <cliff@NoSpAm.gindulis.net> on Friday November 20, 2009 @11:18AM (#30172162)

    It's because the ACoE DIDN'T fuck up. They'd been calling for upgrades since the 60's and couldn't ever get the funding! The secondary problem was the lack of maintenance. The dollars for maintaining the existing levies did exist but the LOCAL, as in not the ACoE, boards kept rejecting the maintenance requests and spending the money on other projects. Such as golf courses and on/off ramps.

    So in this case the analogy of roofs and rain, as presented, is broken. It's more like you told the roofing contractor you wanted a lightweight roof and the contractor said you should really have one made of tiles. You say you don't want to pay for that so build the cheap. The contractor builds the cheap one, tells you again that it's insufficient for the storms you get in your area and then keeps coming back to your house asking to do upgrades and repairs...which you refuse to allow even when the contractor is willing to pay for it.

  • Re:Finger pointing (Score:3, Informative)

    by UnknowingFool (672806) on Friday November 20, 2009 @11:20AM (#30172192)

    The Corp was backed up by an exercise called Hurricane Pam [wikipedia.org]. In that exercise, FEMA headed by Mike Brown (the same Mike Brown) simulated what would happen if a hurricane hit New Orleans. This was conducted in 2004 (a year before Katrina). The results showed that a slow moving Category 3 hurricane (Pam) would wreck the city and topple the levees. Almost a million people would be homeless with 600,000 buildings damaged or destroyed. In other words: catastrophe.

    After the initial part of the exercise that determined the extent of damage was completed, the next phase would have been planning a course of action to mitigate and prepare for such an event. At this time, funding was cut to the project by the Bush administration.

  • Re:Predictable... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Mordac (1009) on Friday November 20, 2009 @11:22AM (#30172228)

    They did not build the city next to the gulf and below water. Open a history book, this is a man made disaster, we humans have moved the Gulf to New Orleans and sunk the city. Its what happend when you destroy thousands of square miles of wetlands to allow a couple more ships per day up the Mississippi and ignore why people built New Orleans so far inland (it was to the Gulf originally as Baton Rouge is now.)

    For a supposed bunch of intelligent people, most of you readers on Slashdot seem to know nothing of history, nor of engineered malfeasance.

  • Re:What? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 20, 2009 @11:29AM (#30172374)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Storm_tides_of_the_North_Sea
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Storm_surge

    Hurricanes don't flood costal areas; storm surges do.

  • Re:What? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Coren22 (1625475) on Friday November 20, 2009 @11:46AM (#30172674) Journal

    The army corps warned the state and local government in the 1960s that the levees were inadequate. The state and local governments ignored them.

  • Re:What? (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 20, 2009 @11:50AM (#30172772)

    From the look of the article it seems they are placing this on the Federal Government when it should have been the responsibility of either the State of Louisiana, or the City of New Orleans that should have been responsible for the levee system.

    As for personal responsibility, this is no worse than the people who have rebuild their home every time a tornado destroys it, or people who keep building their homes in the forests of southern CA, only to have it burn down again the next year. At some point, people need to figure out that there are places humans are not meant to live in.

  • Re:What? (Score:2, Informative)

    by jwilty (1048206) on Friday November 20, 2009 @12:29PM (#30173428)

    So, let's get this right... If you contract me to do some work on your roof and it leaks -- it's your own damn fault for choosing to live in an area where it rains?

    I think this is a good point but the analogy needs to be extended. You contract me to do work on your roof but only give me 50% of the money I say the repairs will cost. At the end, I tell you that your new roof will be fine for normal rain showers but that it WILL leak during a downpour. Then, when my prediction comes true, you blame me. This is where personal responsibility comes into play.

  • Re:What? (Score:2, Informative)

    by sexconker (1179573) on Friday November 20, 2009 @12:51PM (#30173750)

    But it was the local government that refused to do the necessary repairs, maintenance, and new construction that they were told needed to be done.

    For four decades.

  • Re:What? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Lars T. (470328) <Lars.TraegerNO@SPAMgooglemail.com> on Friday November 20, 2009 @12:53PM (#30173772) Journal

    They get a lot of hurricanes in the Netherlands, huh?

    No, they get storm floods [wikipedia.org].

  • Re:What? (Score:3, Informative)

    by eison (56778) <pkteison@@@hotmail...com> on Friday November 20, 2009 @01:40PM (#30174646) Homepage

    Nope.

    http://www.csmonitor.com/2005/1103/p02s02-ussc.html [csmonitor.com]
    "We found dozens of breaches throughout the levee system," says Peter Nicholson, who leads the American Society of Civil Engineers' levee-assessment team."

    ASCE senate testimony: http://www.ewrinstitute.org/files/pdf/katrinalevees.pdf [ewrinstitute.org]
    "Rather than a few breaches through the floodwalls in
    the city caused largely by overtopping, we found literally dozens of breaches throughout
    the many miles of levee system. A number of different failure mechanisms were
    observed, including scour erosion caused by overtopping, seepage, soil failure, and
    piping."

    "Where the storm surge was most severe, causing massive overtopping, the levees
    experienced a range of damage from complete obliteration to intact with no signs of
    distress."

    Two specific breaches were investigated and failed in the way you describe:
    "Finally, three major breaches, and at least one significantly distressed levee-floodwall
    section, were investigated at sites along the 17th Street and London Avenue canals
    which, as explained before, were clearly not overtopped.
    Obvious soil failures within the embankment or foundation soils at or below the bases of
    the earthen levees had occurred at two of the breaches. At the distressed section,
    seepage and piping were evident. These types of soil instabilities appear likely to have
    been responsible for failure of these wall systems."

    Because two breaches failed in the way you described doesn't mean there were only two breaches, or that the sewer company ruined everything for everyone. It's possible the root cause was the panels weren't sunk low enough in the first place. It's definitely the case that there were other failures with other failure reasons.

    Wikipedia looks like a decent place to start for an overview, but as always you'll need to check their sources. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2005_levee_failures_in_Greater_New_Orleans [wikipedia.org]

  • Re:What? (Score:2, Informative)

    by flyneye (84093) on Friday November 20, 2009 @01:57PM (#30174962) Homepage

    Yes all those criteria described me.
          Exceptions to the rule are a much higher ratio.
    Most people have the choice to make themselves better. Those who can't are such an insignificant number as to be helped by preferably churches and charities, but also government assistance though they throw our money to pretty much anyone not too proud to scam them.Out of thousands I've known, met or heard of in my life so far I can honestly say 3 were state kept quadriplegics with brain damage.
              I even know a man as simple, well close to as simple as Forrest Gump who won't live on government assistance. He lives humbly,on his own, works hard and even has retirement funding set up. He always has a smile in spite of the crap he gets from others. Not rich, not poor and certainly stupid.
              I'm tired of hearing apologea for those unwilling to help themselves.It's crap.

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