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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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  • What? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by wpiman (739077)
    The people who knowingly decided to live below sea level bear no responsibility?

    Seriously; this look to government to protect one's self has gone too far.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Krneki (1192201)

      The people who knowingly decided to live below sea level bear no responsibility?

      Seriously; this look to government to protect one's self has gone too far.

      In the US of A, being stupid is a civil right.

      • Re:What? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Jaysyn (203771) <jaysyn+slashdot&gmail,com> on Friday November 20, 2009 @09:24AM (#30170174) Homepage Journal

        60% of the population of the Netherlands live below sea level. Are they all stupid too?

        • Re:What? (Score:4, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 20, 2009 @09:27AM (#30170196)
          Having been to Holland many, many times I can in fact confirm that the entire population are indeed stupid. Next question please...
        • Re:What? (Score:5, Funny)

          by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Friday November 20, 2009 @09:33AM (#30170238)

          60% of the population of the Netherlands live below sea level. Are they all stupid too?

          No, but they all have their fingers stuck in dikes.

          Send the Army Corps of Engineers to the Netherlands. All the folks that live below sea level will move, real fast.

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by FatAlb3rt (533682)
            No, but they all have their fingers stuck in dikes.

            Careful, Kurt Greenbaum might be listening...
        • Re:What? (Score:5, Funny)

          by MrMr (219533) on Friday November 20, 2009 @10:05AM (#30170516)
          Yes, 60% sounds about right. (ps. I'm a native, so I should know)
        • Re:What? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by lorenlal (164133) on Friday November 20, 2009 @10:18AM (#30170644)

          They don't tend to pray that hurricanes decide to change direction to avoid them... So I say no.

          Location. Location. Location.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Evil Shabazz (937088)

          60% of the population of the Netherlands live below sea level. Are they all stupid too?

          Not yet - but they would be if they were devastated by a natural disaster exacerbated by their elevation (say, a tsunami or hurricane), and then proceeded to whine to their federal government for not protecting them from it. However, unlike Louisiana, the Netherlands is not in a prime hurricane or tsunami path, so their elevation in relation to the sea is less of consequence.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by mvdwege (243851)

            Actually, they did. In 1953, some 1800 people drowned when storms combined with a high tide ripped through the dikes. Some people died in England too.

            The difference is, the government took a good look at the dike system, and decided it wasn't up to scratch. Cue a massive program of dike improvements and dams to shorten the coastline, and we're expected to be safe from catastrophic floods for millennia.

            Now, if you compare the dikes around the Dutch polders to the levees in New Orleans, it becomes clear where

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by couchslug (175151)

          "60% of the population of the Netherlands live below sea level. Are they all stupid too?"

          The Dutch don't live in an area plagued by hurricanes, they don't have much alternative due to crowding (which is what drove land reclamation in the first place), and they don't live in a willfully culturally backward and infamously corrupt state.

          The US has vast amounts of land. No one "needs" to live in New Orleans, below sea level or otherwise. (Do note that the old French Quarter wasn't wiped out because they didn't

    • Re:What? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday November 20, 2009 @09:21AM (#30170154) Journal
      Appealing to "individual responsibility" is fun and all; but senseless if perspective is not kept.

      Living below sea level is stupid. However, living below sea level behind a levee designed specifically to make that area habitable, which has been doing exactly that for years and years now is considerably less stupid.

      Does "individual responsibility" require near-Cartesian levels of doubt in every possible piece of infrastructure?
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by HaZardman27 (1521119)
        If it were a cheaply made levee whose maintenance had been ignored for some time, then it's still pretty stupid. Obviously the average person wouldn't know what kind of state the levee was in, but as someone who lives down south, it's safer to just expect that everything is falling apart.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by dlt074 (548126)
        if the levee is only rated to work and hold up to a category x type storm and a x+1 type storm comes along and you're still there. you have nobody to blame but yourself.
      • Re:What? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by causality (777677) on Friday November 20, 2009 @09:56AM (#30170426)

        Appealing to "individual responsibility" is fun and all; but senseless if perspective is not kept. Living below sea level is stupid. However, living below sea level behind a levee designed specifically to make that area habitable, which has been doing exactly that for years and years now is considerably less stupid. Does "individual responsibility" require near-Cartesian levels of doubt in every possible piece of infrastructure?

        The levee could not handle a Category 3 hurricane. Category 3 hurricanes which hit that area are periodic events that happen from time to time; they are absolutely inevitable. So you have a city below sea level protected by a barrier which cannot possibly handle an event that you know with certainty will one day happen. Additionally, all those years that passed without it happening were ample opportunity to reinforce the levee and otherwise to prepare for that eventuality. This did not happen. This alone would dissuade me from living there because the result is absolutely predictable. It's only a question of when.

        What do you call it when people make themselves available for preventable disasters that are easy to foresee? Usually the word "stupid" is used to describe actions like this. "Stupid" is also used to describe people who need a politician or other official to tell them when something is a bad idea because they've lost their common sense and have replaced it with various authority figures. So without a government mandate or official inquiry they, acting on their own, would not seriously question the integrity of the levees or the tremendous risk they were taking. That sheeplike dependency, that inability to independently question and reason, explains not only why New Orleans was such a terrible diaster but also most of American politics and government expansion.

        If you want to do something constructive, don't feel sorry for them or make excuses for them. Those sentiments are probably meant well but they accomplish nothing. They have no power to prevent a future disaster. If you want to do something, use this as an example for why there is no substitute for thinking for yourself and assessing your own risks. Let it represent why there is no substitute for those things, that all kinds of preventable harm is caused by the failure to value those things. The (minority of) people who understand this got out of New Orleans a long time ago and wouldn't have considered moving back without substantial improvements to the inadequate levee. The rest were surprised by the inevitable, which is like choosing to be a victim.

        So yes, individual responsibility was a big factor here. It's not about doubting everything to an absurd degree. It's about knowing the situation you're in and putting yourself into a different situation if it's an invitation to disaster. But the folks who were hit hardest were not thinkers. They didn't think about their situation or compare it to other situations or evaluate risks. They had no such awareness. They just did their daily thing without a second thought and were surprised when something happened. That's the real message here.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Tarsir (1175373)
          You wrote:

          So you have a city below sea level protected by a barrier which cannot possibly handle an event that you know with certainty will one day happen. Additionally, all those years that passed without it happening were ample opportunity to reinforce the levee and otherwise to prepare for that eventuality.

          The judge agrees with you:

          '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,'

          The thing is, the judge lives, along with most of us, in a world where people and organizations have some minimal obligation to other people. Thus, when there is a government organization whose responsibility it is to build levees that will protect a city full or people, and when this organization fails to protect against something that is, as both you and the judge point out, perfectly predictable, then we say this organization has been negligent, and we hold it responsi

        • by nametaken (610866)

          As much as I'd like to agree, my guess is most people would simply assume that the levee would do the job.

          Those who did question it probably couldn't afford to move on a hunch. We're not talking about wealthy areas here.

          Even worse, any plea to local government was probably deferred in favor of other issues considered more pressing to a depressed area.

          Just guessin'.

      • Re:What? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Chibi Merrow (226057) <mrmerrowNO@SPAMmonkeyinfinity.net> on Friday November 20, 2009 @10:18AM (#30170642) Homepage Journal

        The levees in New Orleans were not ever designed to make a Category 3+ storm survivable, and they've always been in a TERRIBLE state of repair (anyone who's actually been the the area could tell you that water constantly seeped through them in several places). New Orleans floods during normal rainstorms. Anyone who thought they were safe there during a Hurricane doesn't deserve any pity.

        Also, the money allocated to levee repair/upgrade was spent on things like off-ramps for casinos and such by the local levee boards. This judge declaring the Corps. to be responsible while ignoring the gross criminal negligence by state and local officials is one of the biggest miscarriages of justice I have ever seen.

        • Re:What? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 20, 2009 @11:07AM (#30171210)

          These very factors are why the smart and able people evacuated, like my family. AND these reasons are why home owner's insurance policies are now being written with much more stringent base flood elevation requirements. The number of homes in the worst hit areas are being raise 4 to 12 feet is impressive, now some of these folks will actually have a chance of not having their homes destroyed if another levee failure happens.

          The lessons learned in New Orleans after Katrina are the lessons that folks who have lived along the coast of Florida and elsewhere have known for a while. Hurricanes come and they blow shit over and make water rise up to crazy heights. So if you want your stuff to make it through you need to build your house up about the storm surge height and add some extra strapping to your roof and walls to keep them from blowing away.

          Having grown up in Florida, lived in New Orleans for 3 years up to Katrina, and now being back in New Orleans again I have only modest levels of sympathy for the folks who lost everything, seeing as I lost a good deal myself. But I was properly insured, evacuated as advised and knew what to expect from 21 years of hurricanes in Florida. The anger needs to be directed at the incompetent local government that didn't take care of its own. Nagin waited too long to order the evacuation and, instead of using the city's fleets of public and school buses to get people out he had everyone go to the Superdome and people died en masse because of his and other local politician's incompetence. And yet he got re-elected because he and the idiot populi blamed the federal government rather than pointing the finger where it rightfully belonged.

    • Re:What? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 20, 2009 @09:23AM (#30170164)

      The people who knowingly decided to live below sea level bear no responsibility?

      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 like it!

      • Re:What? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday November 20, 2009 @10:02AM (#30170482) Journal
        That's the irony, actually. Normally, the same people who are big on "personal responsibility" are also big on "accountability". Why would they be opposed to the Army Corps of Engineers being "accountable" for fucking up?

        One can legitimately assert that this bit of engineering shouldn't have been their job; but it has been for some decades now and they've never been absolved of it. Why would anybody not want them to be accountable for doing their job properly?
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by khallow (566160)

          That's the irony, actually. Normally, the same people who are big on "personal responsibility" are also big on "accountability". Why would they be opposed to the Army Corps of Engineers being "accountable" for fucking up?

          I personally think the Army Corps of Engineers should be held partly accountable for its actions contributing to the mess. But it's worth noting that the Corps isn't the primary source of blame. The city of New Orleans and its inhabitants have to be responsible for their part in this mess as well.

        • Re:What? (Score:5, Informative)

          by Buelldozer (713671) <cliff@gind u l i s . n et> on Friday November 20, 2009 @12:18PM (#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:What? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by flyneye (84093) on Friday November 20, 2009 @10:06AM (#30170522) Homepage

        Actually yes. Eventually those shingles will wear and be damaged and it'll rain again and it'll leak again. Move to the desert if this arrangement bothers you. Its not the governments responsibility to control weather, raise land to above sea level, plug faults, super glue cliffs together by the ocean, fireproof trees or quench volcanos. If you choose to live where there are naturally dangerous occurrences and they occur , It isn't my fault, it isn't the governments fault, it isn't even the insurance companys fault , it's yours.
                To further look into this, It isn't the governments job to make you safe against anything but invasion (what a fine f**king mess that is) and various sundry constitutional duties. If you really want to know what the states liability is, then read your states constitution. The rest is in your hands. Live in a flood zone? Build on stilts and take the elevator up. Live in a quake zone? Build a single story in the wide open. Live on a volcano? Buy some barbeque sauce , Einstein.
                    Unless my semen had something to do with your birth and it was my responsibility to teach you how to get along in life, everything else is your responsibility.

    • Re:What? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Walzmyn (913748) on Friday November 20, 2009 @09:24AM (#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.

      • Re:What? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by UnknowingFool (672806) on Friday November 20, 2009 @09:39AM (#30170282)
        From what I remember the Corp has been begging since 1965 for money to make the changes. Every year state and federal funds went to things that were at that time deemed more important.
        • Re:What? (Score:5, Informative)

          by AlecC (512609) <aleccawley@gmail.com> on Friday November 20, 2009 @10:11AM (#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:What? (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Machtyn (759119) on Friday November 20, 2009 @11:17AM (#30171348) Homepage Journal
            Yes, but what about the previous 35+ years? This puts the blame squarely on the local and state government. At least with the Administration, they knew where the money was going to in Iraq. With New Orleans, we're not sure which person's freezer the bags of cash would wind up.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Buelldozer (713671)

            So the two years before Katrina outweigh the 30+ years, since 1965 or so, that the Corps had been asking for budget to fix JUST THIS?

            Talk about myopic!

    • Re:What? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Rogerborg (306625) on Friday November 20, 2009 @09:25AM (#30170184) Homepage

      Mmm. I think if you check the New Orleans flood map, you'll find that the hardest hit districts were the ones with the lowest social mobility. If you're born there, and can't afford to move anywhere else, then should you be damned for your "decision" to be poor? [cityofno.com]

      Perhaps the State has no responsibility to act for the benefit of its citizens, but if not, then what is its purpose?

      • Re:What? (Score:5, Informative)

        by UnknowingFool (672806) on Friday November 20, 2009 @09:41AM (#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.
      • Moving (Score:5, Insightful)

        by sjbe (173966) on Friday November 20, 2009 @11:25AM (#30171428)

        Mmm. I think if you check the New Orleans flood map, you'll find that the hardest hit districts were the ones with the lowest social mobility. If you're born there, and can't afford to move anywhere else, then should you be damned for your "decision" to be poor?

        Very, very few people in the US are so poor they cannot move elsewhere. Yes it's harder for those without means but it's not remotely impossible. I grew up in a family that was poor as church mice when I was little. We could have moved if we felt the need. Saying you can't move because you are poor is demonstrably untrue most of the time. Nobody promises you it will be easy but it most definitely is possible.

        Perhaps the State has no responsibility to act for the benefit of its citizens, but if not, then what is its purpose?

        Of course its job it to act for the benefit of the citizens but ONLY for those things the citizens can't do themselves. There is hardly an able bodied or able minded adult person in this country who could not pick up and move to another location within the US if they set their mind to it. They don't need the government's help to do that in most cases.

    • by Miros (734652) *
      It's complicated by the fact that the government was the one who drained the marshlands originally and then sold the resulting dry land to expand the city. If they tried to blame the people for living there, people would then in turn blame them for suggesting that it was safe to live there. But more to the point, didn't these people have flood insurance?
    • Well... the government did allow people to build there. Insurance companies considered it an acceptable risk (pre-Katrina). Most of the houses would be saved if the Levies didn't break.

      I would say this would go under normal government protection not excessive one. When it is an individual who knows the risk then it is their fault. However if you expand a city to these areas then it becomes a government concern.

    • by aepervius (535155) on Friday November 20, 2009 @09:35AM (#30170258)
      When my parents bought a home, the elevation was not on the contract or even sale presentation. You could only see if you were going to search for special map with precise elevation lines. So how many people living there do REALLY realize they live on ground below sea level ? Well *NOW* maybe a lot. but how many did back then ?
      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        Well *NOW* maybe a lot. but how many did back then ?

        Any competent buyer, who would demand a correctly-surveyed piece of property before purchase. We didn't invent elevation in the last decade or anything, just easy ways to get a bad estimate thereof (Elevation is GPS' key weakness.)

    • who is responsible else how will the lawyers get paid?

      So, the Corp is responsible. Big deal. Fix the problem. I do not see how this entitles anyone to sue the government for money. Whats next? Suing the government for permitting tobacco sales? Its not like the government doesn't know they are bad for you.

    • There are some projects that can only be undertaken by large resources: the reclamation of the Netherlands and the East Anglian Fens from the sea being successful examples. The return on investment can be very large. But the effect of drainage is to reduce soil levels, so land that started up above sea level ends up below (you can see this very easily in East Anglia, where the drainage canals are often well above field levels.) East Anglia and the Netherlands have amazing hydrological systems to prevent flo
    • Re:What? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mcgrew (92797) * on Friday November 20, 2009 @09:56AM (#30170422) Homepage Journal

      The people who knowingly decided to live below sea level bear no responsibility?

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

      And a lot of people, especially the poor, don't have much of a choice where they live. If you were talking about the rich people in California who build mansions where they can slide off a cliff, or in a wooded area that was prone to wildfires you would be right. If someone's home Kansas gets blown away by a tornado do you blame them because they live in Kansas? If someone's house in Japan gets destroyed in an earthquake do you blame them for living in Japan? If someone in Florida's house is destroyed by a hurricane do you blame them just because they live in Florida? There aren't many places on earth that are immune from natural disasters. But the disaster in N.O. was caused by the Corps of Engineer's incompetence. 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.

      Blaming the victim is despicable, and that's just what you're doing. The government reassured these people and they believed the gov. Who's to blame, the liar or the one who believes the lies?

      • by sjbe (173966)

        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

    • Re:What? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by wilder_card (774631) on Friday November 20, 2009 @10:30AM (#30170762)

      You, like most people, are overlooking a few facts here. New Orleans used to be well inland and above sea level. A long series of environmentally disastrous policies lowered the water table, removed natural barriers, concentrated storm surges, and generally guaranteed that NO was a disaster waiting to happen.

      Unfortunately the government and Army Corps aren't legally liable for severe technical malpractice and rank stupidity. This suit slips through a loophole in the legal immunity the government gave the Corps.

      New Orleans could be saved. And the cost of abandoning a major city is immense, far more than building better hurricane defenses. Building better hurricane walls will cost far more than restoring wetlands, allowing the water table to recover, and re-engineering the waterways. Of course, the best/cheapest solution is probably the one least likely to be selected by our broken political process.

      And the cheapest solution of all (short-term) is to blame the victim and do nothing. It's worked really well so far.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Mordac (1009)

        I wish this was right at the top. I was hoping someone would point out that New Orleans was not naturally in a dangerzone.

        The Army Corp of Engineers over a century of work has done so much damage to the surrounding wetlands that the Gulf has encroached hundreds of miles, and the city itself has sunk. The Army Corp in trying to tame the Mississippi doomed New Orleans to this fate, and then did nothing to protect it. Instead they waste money on dredging more channels that will be barely if ever used, and lead

    • Re:What? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Runaway1956 (1322357) * on Friday November 20, 2009 @11:22AM (#30171402) Homepage Journal

      I just got off work, and I'm just to tired to do the search that I ought to do. Anyone can google if they care to.

      The retaining walls in New Orleans failed in exactly two places. No more, and no less. In precisely those two places, the N.O. water and sewer department had disturbed the wall, years earlier. They lifted the panels out of the wall, and out of the prepared soil in which they had been planted. After making alterations to these panels, they were lifted back into place, and set back on the very same groung, without any work being done to the ground.

      Some people who have never been around a construction site may need to ask around, or research, but I'll tell you what you'll find. Lifting a fencepost, a wall, or anything out of the ground, breaks built up adhesion. In fact, adhesion is going to lift great gobs of dirt along with whatever you are lifting. When you put that fencepost, or panel, or whatever BACK into the hole, you will have voids. Voids are conducive to water flow.

      And, those two panels that failed, did so BECAUSE water had percolated UNDER them, removing all the loosened soil under and around the panels. Once all the loose soil was gone, water flow increased, washing out more and more stabilized earth.

      Eventually, the walls collapsed when several panels were left without any support.

      Bottom line? That judge is full of shit. The New Orleans water and sewer department caused the city to flood. Katrina was not the primary cause, nor were the Corps of Engineers. Water and sewer fools who had no idea what they were doing, took it upon themselves to tamper with vital infrastructure, without consulting the Corps.

      I'm going to bed. If I'm barraged with challenges, maybe I'll find the pertinent reports for everyone when I get up. But, I'm sure that SOMEONE can find the news articles as well as the reports.

      Have fun!

  • Remember, kids... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday November 20, 2009 @09:16AM (#30170130) Journal
    This is why you need to listen to the guys with hard hats and pocket protectors.

    They aren't the only necessary ingredients of a functional society; but engineers(in concert with scientists) are your best hope of pulling nature's teeth before it can bite you in the ass.
  • by LeepII (946831) on Friday November 20, 2009 @09:22AM (#30170156)
    Pay no attention to the reports from residents that heard the levies being blown to protect the rich neighborhoods.
    • by Dun Malg (230075) on Friday November 20, 2009 @09:29AM (#30170216) Homepage
      Exactly, because breaching a levee in one place does not magically strengthen it in others, nor does it "relieve the pressure" being exerted by a fucking hurricane. What kind of fucking numbnuts even entertains such a notion?
      • Re:Pay no attention! (Score:5, Informative)

        by Nadaka (224565) on Friday November 20, 2009 @09:52AM (#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.

  • Finger pointing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RogueWarrior65 (678876) on Friday November 20, 2009 @09:26AM (#30170186)

    I've read in several disparate sources that the Corps repeatedly informed the powers-that-be in Louisiana and New Orleans that the levies were insufficient but were regularly ignored.

    • This was not-so-widely reported during the Katrina situation, because people were too busy jumping on the "Katrina is Bush's Fault!" bandwagon. Funding was funneled away from the levees and put into other projects.

      That isn't to say that the ACE isn't at fault either; some of the levees seem to have been poorly built, but I am not convinced this is due to malicious intent.

      • 'This was not-so-widely reported during the Katrina situation, because people were too busy jumping on the "Katrina is Bush's Fault!" bandwagon. Funding was funneled away from the levees and put into other projects'

        If Bush cut funding, how isn't this Bushs fault ?

        'That isn't to say that the ACE isn't at fault either; some of the levees seem to have been poorly built, but I am not convinced this is due to malicious intent'

        Yes, the construction was flimsey, because of lack of funds.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by UnknowingFool (672806)

      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

  • 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.)

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by rs232 (849320)
      "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
      • by ScentCone (795499) on Friday November 20, 2009 @10:04AM (#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.
    • by Bakkster (1529253) <Bakkster.man@gm a i l . com> on Friday November 20, 2009 @09:58AM (#30170448)

      It also makes the entire state of Louisiana look stupid for not declaring an emergency (Federal gov't can't send in the national guard without the state's say so) or forcing an evacuation, even though they are the ones who should have best known that anything above a category 3 would put the city underwater.

  • susceptible cities (Score:2, Insightful)

    by rwv (1636355)

    At the beginning of the trial this summer, US District Court Judge Stanwood Duval asked, "You all know what this is about: ... What did the Corps know, when did it know it, and when should it have known?"

    He answered in a 158-page ruling late Wednesday.

    "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," he wrote.

    He awarded 4 people (presumably New Orleans landowners) about $750,000 apiece for a lawsuit that's been going on since 2006. I don't know any more specifics about this case, but that seems like a small price to pay compared to the millions/billions that were spent immediately after the storm.

    What I don't understand is why natural disasters should have been mitigated by technology. There are certain areas of the country that are susceptible to certain disasters. They wouldn't blame a construction firm w

    • by julesh (229690)

      I don't buy the argument that we should be expected to spend the money up-front to guard against storms that big.

      You're missing the point, which is that the badly maintained canal made the situation worse than it would have been had the canal never been built (at which point nobody would have lived in the area in question because it would _always_ flood). People would have been better off if they had done nothing at all, but that's not what they did.

  • In my opinion, it wasn't just myopia and shortsightedness, but nearsightedness as well!
    • by ranulf (182665)
      I think it's just that they couldn't see beyond their noses...
    • In my opinion, it wasn't just myopia and shortsightedness, but nearsightedness as well!

      You're neglecting the "insouciance".

  • Predictable... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wolvesofthenight (991664) on Friday November 20, 2009 @09:52AM (#30170386)
    They are partly correct: This catastrophes in the history was both predictable and preventable. They built a city right next to the ocean, bellow sea level, in a major hurricane zone, on a sinking delta, and in the flood plain of one of the world's largest rivers. It is quite easy to predict that any such city will be flooded, and being a major city it was a major disaster. And it was preventable: they could have built the city somewhere else, and limited the use of the delta area to only stuff that had to be there.
    • by Nadaka (224565)

      They also went through a massive geo engineering project to prevent the natural course of the river from moving west of the city away from the city of new orleans. To save its port economy instead of building a different god damn port.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Mordac (1009)

      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

      • Re:Predictable... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Ambiguous Coward (205751) on Friday November 20, 2009 @12:49PM (#30172742) Homepage

        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.)

        I'd mod you up...

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

        But you're a douche.

  • This is total BS (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DarkOx (621550) on Friday November 20, 2009 @09:56AM (#30170418) Journal

    The same Army Core of Engineers recommended for years the levies be reinforced. There is no reason to think doing so would not have avoided the flooding problems. The people there failed to make the investment. Its the local government there that is responsible and nobody else.

    What we have here is a professional organization said the situation was unsafe and recommended a fix. The customer did not elect to implement the fix. Then when things went wrong the customer is trying to blame that organization for not having recommended something else.

    Its total crap.

    • The Corps has recommended the levees be strengthened. It was very well known that New Orleans was in danger long before Katrina. Heck my daughter found a Nat Geo article with maps predicting flooding way before Katrina while looking for pictures to cut and paste for a 2nd grade project. The cities and the state and the feds never gave it the funding needed and diverted the funding to dredge shipping channels for the super tankers to ply through.

      Now Corps would have a case against the city and the state an

  • by kick6 (1081615) on Friday November 20, 2009 @09:56AM (#30170420) Homepage
    If this was such a major concern for the state of Louisiana......................why didn't they just use state money? This is a classic case of fingerpointing.
  • Sue the Pope next (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cryfreedomlove (929828) on Friday November 20, 2009 @11:23AM (#30171416)
    New Orleans is heavily Catholic and God could have steered Katrina away. As God's representative on earth, we should sue Pope Benedict.
  • by DarthVain (724186) on Friday November 20, 2009 @12:21PM (#30172198)

    News at 11.

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