December 25, 2005


Levees Weakened as New Orleans Board, Federal Engineers Feuded (Stephen Braun and Ralph Vartabedian, December 25, 2005, LA Times)

When the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and New Orleans levee officials joined forces in July 1985 to protect the city from a long-feared hurricane, the two agencies could not agree on how to proceed. It was the beginning of a dysfunctional partnership that ushered in two decades of chronic government mismanagement.

Corps engineers wanted to install gates in front of the city's three main internal canals to protect against violent storm surges from Lake Pontchartrain. The Orleans Levee District, the city's flood protection agency, preferred to build higher flood walls for miles along the canals. For five years, neither side yielded.

But in October 1990, a deft behind-the-scenes maneuver by the levee board forced the corps to accept higher flood walls. As Senate and House negotiators gathered to craft the Water Resources Development Act of 1990, Louisiana's congressional delegation quietly inserted a lobbyist's phrasing ordering the corps to raise the levee walls.

"It was stealth; legislative trickery," recalled New Orleans lawyer Bruce Feingerts, who lobbied for the levee board. "We had to push every button at our disposal."

The gambit was a crucial victory over the corps by the Orleans district, the most powerful and well-financed among 18 Louisiana boards that supervise more than 340 miles of storm levees across the hurricane-prone southern half of the state. The corps had to abandon its floodgate plan and shoulder 70% of the project's costs while allowing the Orleans board to hire its own consultants to design the strengthened levees.

But their fractious partnership proved disastrous. While the corps and the Orleans board settled into an acrimonious 15-year relationship, spending $95 million to buttress the city's canal levees, their shared supervision failed to detect crucial weaknesses inside the flood walls before Hurricane Katrina struck.

"No one felt the urgency, none of us," said Lambert C. Boissiere Jr., a former Orleans levee commissioner. "The corps and our own engineers told us the levees were strong enough. They were all dead wrong."

The Hurricane was caused by George Bush's opposition to Kyoto and the flooding by his racism. Period. I know because the Left told me....

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 25, 2005 11:32 AM

Hey, don't forget Karl Rove's weather machine, which was unleashed on the main Democratic stronghold in the south, after first being tested on the defenseless peoples of the Indian Ocean basin a year ago Monday...

Posted by: John at December 25, 2005 12:50 PM

The poor blacks in NO who were most effected by the Hurricane were responsible for their own problems because society had already given them enough chances. I know because the right told me this.

Posted by: Grog at December 25, 2005 1:48 PM

Grog: The inner cities of all large metro areas are the result of ghetto politics of the Democratic POarty. Hurts, doesn't it?

Posted by: sam at December 25, 2005 2:41 PM

sam: The Democratic Party gave us slavery and Jim Crow. Compared to that, they are making some progress...

Posted by: MGNC at December 25, 2005 2:53 PM


Gee, you must've missed the news stories about how the white areas and black areas were equally affected. That talking point is about two months out of date. Even the Left isn't using it anymore.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at December 25, 2005 4:23 PM


But regardless of which race you were you were responsible for what happened to you if you chose to live in New Orleans, at least Grog has learned that much. It's rare enough to see anyone on the Left who grasps the idea of personal responsibility.

Posted by: oj at December 25, 2005 4:38 PM

Matt: You must be really naive, gullible, or as I like to describe many on this site, "willfully ignorant." Blacks and Whites equally affected? Yeah, and Grizzly Adams had a beard.

Posted by: Grog at December 25, 2005 5:10 PM


No, he can just afford to look reality in the face because it won't ever contradict his worldview:

Posted by: oj at December 25, 2005 5:23 PM

The tragedy is that the Corps floodgates would probably have prevented the levee failures, even if the levees hadn't been raised. So the State and City won the battle and lost the war.

Posted by: jd watson [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 26, 2005 12:09 AM


I've offered a substantive point and OJ has been kind enough to search his archives for corroborating evidence.

Your turn.

(By the way, as was once said in Happy Gilmore: "Grizzly Adams did have a beard.")

Posted by: Matt Murphy at December 26, 2005 12:46 AM


One interesting thing I noted was that, even early on during the hurricane situation, people who were aquainted with New Orleans and knew the facts on the ground were dismissing the whole racial-guilt story as buncombe. One New Orleans professor wrote a late-September story in the Weekly Standard in which he went down the list and noted all the white neighborhoods that were devastated and all the black neighborhoods that were (largely) spared. Obviously, plenty of blacks and whites suffered but long experience has certainly taught conservatives to be skeptical whenever the media tells us a story that happens to coincide with the conventional wisdom.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at December 26, 2005 12:54 AM