Federal Court Rules Corps Of Engineers Responsible For Worst Of Katrina

From The New York Times:

NEW ORLEANS — A federal judge found Wednesday evening that poor maintenance of a major navigation channel by the Army Corps of Engineers led to some of the worst flooding after Hurricane Katrina. The ruling was a major victory for homeowners who suffered damage in the aftermath of the storm.

…The plaintiffs’ lawyers argued that the Army Corps had not exercised “due care” in its maintenance of the channel, and that the maintenance that was done, like dredging, only made things worse. The corps’ actions, they said, brought salt water into the New Orleans area, killing off marshes; eroded the banks on which levees sat; and more than doubled the channel in width, giving water driven by hurricanes an unobstructed path to the city.

In his decision, Judge Duval largely agreed with this argument, at least as it pertained to St. Bernard and the Lower Ninth Ward. He was highly critical of the government, which had argued that the hurricane and its massive storm surge was simply more than the system had been designed to handle, and said the corps had manipulated facts.

“The corps had an opportunity to take a myriad of actions to alleviate this deterioration or rehabilitate this deterioration and failed to do so,” he wrote. “Clearly the expression ‘talk is cheap’ applies here.”

Wizbang, specifically former editor Paul, was the first to present a detailed case as to the Corp’s responsibility for the devastation starting just days after the event. You can read the two summation posts (here and here) or browse the Katrina archive.

As Paul noted when the damning evidence was first released, the fact that the blame has been assigned (and now adjudicated) is small comfort. Here’s what he said,

Starting just days after the storm I began following this story and predicted this day would come when all the evidence was in. I also began documenting the repeated lies told by the Corps.

Within a few weeks of the storm I was demanding that more evidence be released because the evidence we had was damning the Corps. It was about a month and a half after the storm that the evidence became -to my mind- overwhelming. And the crusade began in ernest.

Thru that time, I’ve sparred with some readers who were legitimately skeptical of my conclusions and ALSO with more than one or two people I’ve since found out had connections to the Corps and were trying to discredit me. (yeah, you guys (and gal) are busted, now run along.)

I’ll admit to being human. When I read the headline I got a certain satisfaction… That it was a “victory.” And it was in some ways. It was a victory for the truth, it was a victory for the engineering profession and it was a victory for openness in government. (although that last one was a tight race)

But my joy at the “victory” was short lived. Very short lived. Because it changes nothing.

In the end, this story is not about engineering reports, politics or blame. It is about people. By the time the numbers are all in, it will be over well 2,000 dead. – And imagine the number they left grieving.

It is a story of 250,000 people -a quarter million- who lost their homes and all their possessions. You can drive thru the streets of New Orleans and see mile – after mile – after mile – of ruined homes, destroyed cars and untold debris. It goes on forever. I can put you in car and drive for 2 hours and not see one livable home.

Behind every one of those homes is a story. They are numbers to the rest of America. To us they are our neighbors, our friends, our families.

None of their lives will ever be the same. Ever.

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