Thursday, September 08, 2005

More on Levees

So much has been made about the failure to upgrade the levies in New Orleans. Both media and politicians seem to be charging in the direction of blaming Washington and Budget cuts on the levee failure.

Is it possible that there are other reasons levees weren’t upgraded? No story is a simple as “George Bush did it,”

Environmental groups have a long history of opposing levee projects, including those in the New Orleans area.

John Berlau of the Competitive Enterprise Institute notes For example:

The Army Corps was planning to upgrade 303 miles of levees along the river in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas. This was needed, a Corps spokesman told the Baton Rouge, La., newspaper The Advocate, because “a failure could wreak catastrophic consequences on Louisiana and Mississippi which the states would be decades in overcoming, if they overcame them at all.”
But a suit filed by environmental groups at the U.S. District Court in New Orleans claimed the Corps had not looked at “the impact on bottomland hardwood wetlands.” The lawsuit stated, “Bottomland hardwood forests must be protected and restored if the Louisiana black bear is to survive as a species, and if we are to ensure continued support for source population of all birds breeding in the lower Mississippi River valley.” In addition to the Sierra Club, other parties to the suit were the group American Rivers, the Mississippi River Basin Alliance, and the Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi Wildlife Federations.

And, in another example of how the media might be missing part of the story, CNS News takes a look at the local Levee district's checkered past.

The levee board promised Times-Picayune readers that the "few manageable gaps" in the walls protecting the city from Mother Nature's waters "will be sealed within four years (1999) completing our circle of protection." But less than a year later, that same levee board was denied the authority to refinance its debts. Legislative Auditor Dan Kyle "repeatedly faulted the Levee Board for the way it awards contracts, spends money and ignores public bid laws," according to the Times-Picayune. The newspaper quoted Kyle as saying that the board was near bankruptcy and should not be allowed to refinance any bonds, or issue new ones, until it submitted an acceptable plan to achieve solvency.Blocked from financing the local portion of the flood fighting efforts, the levee board was unable to spend the federal matching funds that had been designated for the project.

The good news about all of this is the truth will come out in full detail. With the harangue that has developed, you can count on a full discussion on the issue of Levees.

I said this earlier, I’ll repeat it now.

The Levees are an important part of this story, and the simple claim that it is the Federal Government’s fault won’t stand the light of day.