Wednesday, September 14, 2005

"hurricane highway"

This article points out that a canal connecting the Mississippi with the Gulf of Mexico apparently helped channel the storm surge from Katrina right into the heart of metropolitan New Orleans. Various politicians for years complained about the flooding hazard the channel posed, in particular to St Bernard Parish and New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward, but to little avail.

Ironically, the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO) was a commercial flop -- it averages less than one ship a day, only taking 3% of the traffic of the New Orleans port. Nevertheless, the Army Corps of Engineers spent $13 million dredging the MRGO last year, based on the usual bogus estimate of costs and benefits.

The Corps apparently dismissed concerns that one of the costs would be to undermine the other chief duty of the Corps -- to try to prevent or mitigate flooding. Oops.

As I've posted before, the Corps has a decidedly checkered past in American history. Between the breached levees (NOT entirely the Corps' fault) and now the realization that one of its typical pork-barrel commercially-dubious environmentally-damaging ditch-digging exercises EXACERBATED the flooding, the saga of New Orleans adds another blot to its already-ink-stained record.