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November 3, 2005
Did Corruption Kill New Orleans?

New testimony suggests that the flawed levees holding back Lake Pontchartrain from the New Orleans basin may have failed not only due to design defects, but also from decades-old corner cutting during their construction. The New York Times reports that interviews with the workers themselves that built the levees suggest that the construction crews failed to build the levees even to the faulty design specifications, leaving them inadequately anchored for resistance to large storms:

"These levees should have been expected to perform adequately at these levels if they had been designed and constructed properly," said the expert, Raymond Seed, a professor of civil engineering at the University of California, Berkeley.

"Not just human error was involved," Professor Seed said. "There may have been malfeasance."

Professor Seed, whose team was financed by the National Science Foundation, did not offer hard evidence to back up his accusation. But he said after the hearing that the team had been contacted by levee workers, contractors and, in some cases, widows of contractors who told stories of protective sheet pile being driven less deeply than plans called for and corners cut in choosing soils for construction, among other problems.

The news that corruption may have played a role in building levees in New Orleans should shock few, if any, familiar with the reputation of the city. It didn't get the nickname The Big Easy without a reason. With both the design and the construction now shown or suspected to fall below standard, it again shows that the levee failures could not easily have been predicted by the people on the ground, especially as Katrina turned father to the East and hit the city with the Category-3 force that all systems were designed to withstand.

Senator Susan Collins, who chairs the committee dealing with Homeland Security, promises to ask the Army Corps of Engineers "tough questions". Better that Congress ask a few of itself and the state of Louisiana. Over the years, the government has allocated more public-works funds to Louisiana than almost any other state. Has Congress done much to determine where that money gets spent? Has it demanded progress reports on its project monies? Besides, grilling the existing Corps may not tell them much; most of the work on those sections were done decades ago, with modern improvements only being additions onto the early work.

We need to fix the levee system around New Orleans, but this time, we need much better oversight than we have realized in the past. That can only come if Congress takes responsibility for its own part in ensuring the cash flows properly and gets used effectively.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at November 3, 2005 6:16 AM

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» Levee Failures Due to Incompetence and Corruption? from A Blog For All
And this is a surprise to anyone who has been following the New Orleans Katrina aftermath? Everywhere you turn, you realize just how poorly run Louisiana has been for decades, and that New Orleans safety - and that of its residents - was always a dis... [Read More]

Tracked on November 3, 2005 8:39 AM

» It's The Curruption Stupid! from Oblogatory Anecdotes
The Levee breaches werent caused by a government conspiracy to hurt blacks; it wasnt even caused by aliens from the Mother Ship. Evidence shows it was just shoddy workmanship and contractors cutting corners that are to blame for the levee breaks ... [Read More]

Tracked on November 3, 2005 10:58 AM

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