Katrina compensation urged as judge faults Army Corps
By Spencer S. Hsu
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 20, 2009
Louisiana officials called on the Obama administration Thursday to compensate residents after a federal judge's ruling that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was responsible for some of the worst flooding in and around New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
U.S. District Judge Stanwood R. Duval Jr. ruled late Wednesday that the Corps' "monumental negligence" in maintaining a man-made shipping channel known as the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet created what analysts said was a "hurricane highway," channeling floodwaters from the August 2005 storm into eastern New Orleans and St. Bernard Parish.
Sen. Mary L. Landrieu (D-La.) said the decision vindicated those who have called Katrina both a natural and man-made disaster, citing the failure of government-built levees and water control systems. She said the federal government needs to make widespread changes in coastal-management and flood-protection efforts in Louisiana and Mississippi.
"I will be working directly with President Obama to ensure that his administration understands the implications of this decision and the immediate need for the government to reach a final resolution," Landrieu said.
Rep. Charles Melancon (D-La.) also said he hoped for a "quick resolution" to end the legal battling.
Sens. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) said the judgment underscored the "urgent need" to reform Corps water-control polices, which have been subject to pork-barrel political interests by lawmakers. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) said in a statement that he hopes the ruling will end a Corps culture of "gross irresponsibility," but that it was "too little, too late" for residents.
Duval's 156-page order awarded $720,000 in damages to four individuals and one business. Legal analysts said the opinion could open the way to huge judgments against the federal government. About 100,000 people live in the area that was the subject of the lawsuit, said plaintiffs' attorney Jonathan Andry. Overall, 490,000 claims have been filed with the Corps seeking hurricane-related damages.
A military spokesman initially indicated that the Army Corps would take no action on such claims pending appeal, but the Corps and Justice Department spokesman Charles Miller sent a more moderate signal Thursday.
"The department is currently reviewing Judge Duval's decision. We have made no determination as to what the government's next step will be in this matter," Miller said.
Now I shall start my rant...I was a combat engineer in the Army. I am as proud of that castle that I wore on my collar as I am of the jump wings on my chest. I was the guy you called on the radio when you needed to build a bunker or a bridge...or send that bridge to Jesus if you needed it gone.
As a civilian contractor, I went to the Gulf Coast after Katrina and spent 2 years working in that AO. I lived in a tent right next to the people who lost every thing they owned.
While there, I saw many USACE flood plans for the future to prevent the next Katrina...but the people don't want them because they will interfere with their lifestyle or it is too expensive.
NOLA flooded because nobody wanted to spend the money to fix the problem in the first place...Don't blame a natural disaster on USACE.
End of rant.
A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
Robert A. Heinlein