Thursday, September 01, 2005

Funding cuts led to levee breaches

Three Facts you need to know.

1. The levees of New Orleans were the charge of the Army Corps of engineers.

2. The Army Corps had their budget cut every year of the Bush administration.

3. The most severe cuts came in 2003 and 2004 as money went to the war on Iraq instead.

Now it is being revealed that the cuts did hamper necessary upgrades to the New Orleans levees.

From the Chicago Tribune:
Much of the devastation in New Orleans was caused by breaches in the levees, which sent water from Lake Pontchartrain pouring into the city. Since much of the city is below sea level, the levee walls acted like the walls of a bowl that filled until as much as 80 percent of the city was under water.

...the Army Corps requested $78 million for this fiscal year for projects that would improve draining and prevent flooding in New Orleans. The Bush administration's budget provided $30 million for the projects, and Congress ultimately approved $36.5 million, according to Landrieu's office.

I have seen reports that link budget cuts to the Army Corps to every year that Bush has been in charge, with the worst coming in 2003 and 2004 because of the war.

"I'm not saying it wouldn't still be flooded, but I do feel that if it had been totally funded, there would be less flooding than you have," said Michael Parker, a former Republican Mississippi congressman who headed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from October 2001 until March 2002, when he was ousted after publicly criticizing a Bush administration proposal to cut the corps' budget.

...the corps' budget has been regularly targeted by the White House because public works projects are perceived as pork and aren't considered "sexy."

"Go talk to the people who are suffering in New Orleans," Parker said. "Ask them, `Do they think it's pork?' "

That's well said isn't it? But the Bush administration and Congress is not against pork. They passed a bill this year that passed out money for a bridge in Alaska leading to nowhere. Apparently New Orleans is not considered part of their "base".

Joseph Suhayda, an emeritus engineering professor at Louisiana State University who has worked for the Army Corps of Engineers, said the corps simply didn't have enough money to build the levees as high as the designs called for.

"The fact that they weren't that high was a result of lack of funding," he said, noting that part of the levee at the 17th Street Canal--where one of the breaches occurred--was 4 feet lower than the rest. "I think they could have significantly reduced the impact if they had those projects funded. If you need to spend $20 million and you spend $4 or $5 million, something's got to give."

J. David Rogers, chairman of the geological engineering department at the University of Missouri-Rolla, said politicians have refused to spend money to improve the levees to handle a Category 5 storm because of the low probability of such a storm occurring.


While corps officials were trying to determine the cause of the levee breaches, they said they believed it was caused by water lapping over the top of the levees, which eroded the back side and eventually caused them to give way.

There are at least three major breaches of 200 to 300 feet long, corps officials said. Once the corps plugs the leaks, with huge bags of sand and gravel dropped by helicopters, it will begin repairing and replacing pumps in the city to remove the water.
Rest at: Funding cuts led way to lesser levees

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