Friday, June 01, 2007

A delayed study

The question of how the New Orleans flood control system was botched so badly is yet to receive a definite answer. It sounds like the answer won't be coming anytime soon. Maybe the subject is just a little too politically sensitive -- including the question of why the funding was so badly delayed and why Congress didn't provide better oversight.

According to a story in the Times-Picayune about a visit by the new head of the Army Corps to New Orleans, the new head of the Corps didn't even know the subject was under study:

Indeed, the education still needs some fine-tuning: Van Antwerp admitted he knew nothing about the long-delayed Hurricane Protection Decision Chronology being conducted under the auspices of the U.S. Defense Department.

The study was designed "to enable the corps and the nation to fully understand the long history of federal, state and local decisions that led to the design and construction of the New Orleans-area flood and storm damage reduction system," Maj. Gen. Don Riley, corps director of civil works, said when the study was announced in June 2006 as a companion to the nine-volume forensic report on the levee failures during Hurricane Katrina.

Corps officials and members of the independent team preparing the report have refused to say when it will be released to the public. The lack of such a report on the breaches -- detailing policy and political failures that accompanied engineering and scientific failures -- prompted criticism last year from the American Society of Civil Engineers.

It's not a good sign that the head of the Corps isn't even aware of this crucial study of the Corps' past failings.

What's the old line about those who fail to remember history? Let's hope it doesn't hold true in this case -- since the people who will be doomed are the not the Corps but the populations it is supposed to protect.


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