Friday, September 02, 2005

Sidney Blumenthal in today's Guardian offers a concise summary of how this administration drastically shot down requests and recommendations for funding to flood control in New Orleans, eventually starving the army corps of federal funding.
A year ago the US army corps of engineers proposed to study how New Orleans could be protected from a catastrophic hurricane, but the Bush administration ordered that the research not be undertaken. After a flood killed six people in 1995, the Congress created the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project. Operated by the corps of engineers, levees and pumping stations were strengthened and renovated. In 2001, when George Bush became president, the Federal Emergency Management Agency issued a report stating that a hurricane striking New Orleans was one of the three most likely potential disasters - after a terrorist attack on New York City. But by 2003 the federal funding essentially dried up as it was drained into the Iraq war. By 2004, the Bush administration cut the corps of engineers' request for holding back the waters of Lake Pontchartrain by more than 80%. By the beginning of this year, the administration's additional cuts, reduced by 44% since 2001, forced the corps to impose a hiring freeze. The Senate debated adding funds for fixing levees, but it was too late.

The fact that after September 11, when homeland security was supposed to have become such a top priority, the administration was consistently starving New Orleans of these funds is dismaying. Makes one wonder if the Office of Homeland Security is just a house of cards (well if you haven't wondered this already).

I just cannot understand in the name of what interest cutting army corps funds by 80% would have been done, except a desire to pare down a federal budget that had exploded at the behest of the Iraq war.

Oh, and of course wetland preservation which also prevents flooding was stymied, because the developers are more important after all:
The Bush administration's policy of turning over wetlands to developers almost certainly has contributed to the heightened level of the storm surge. In 1990, a federal task force began restoring lost wetlands around New Orleans. Every two miles of wetland between the Crescent City and the Gulf reduces a surge by half a foot.

No comments: