Thursday, November 19, 2009

Katrina damage due to 'monumental' neglect

Who needs climate change when you have a thick layer of US government fecklessness, stupidity, and arrogance? Cain Burdeau in National Geographic via AP: A federal judge ruled Wednesday that the Army Corps of Engineers' failure to properly maintain a navigation channel led to massive flooding in Hurricane Katrina, a decision that could make the federal government vulnerable to billions of dollars in claims.

U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval sided with six residents and one business who argued the Army Corps' shoddy oversight of the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet led to the flooding of New Orleans' Lower 9th Ward and neighboring St. Bernard Parish. He said, however, the corps couldn't be held liable for the flooding of eastern New Orleans, where two of the plaintiffs lived.

Duval awarded the plaintiffs U.S. $720,000, but the government could eventually be forced to pay much more in damages. The ruling should give more than 100,000 other individuals, businesses, and government entities a better shot at claiming billions of dollars in damages. Speaking in May, months before the ruling, Bob Bea, a civil engineer and levee expert at the University of California, Berkeley, told National Geographic News that the federal government could be on the hook as much as two trillion dollars.

The ruling is also emotionally resonant for southern Louisiana. Many in New Orleans have argued that the flooding in the aftermath of the hurricane, which struck the region on August 29, 2005, was a human-made disaster caused by the Army Corps' failure to maintain the levee system protecting the city. "Total devastation could possibly have been avoided if something had been done," said Tanya Smith, one of the plaintiffs. "A lot of this stuff was preventable and they turned a deaf ear to it."

…Duval referred to the corps' approach to maintaining the channel as "monumental negligence." Joe Bruno, one of the lead lawyers for the plaintiffs, said the ruling underscored the Army Corps' long history of not properly protecting the New Orleans region. "It's high time we look at the way these guys do business and do a full re-evaluation of the way it does business," Bruno said….

New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, 2005, shot by NOAA

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