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Army's engineers spent millions on La. projects labeled pork...Landrieu wanted more
[B]Army's engineers spent millions on Louisiana projects labeled as pork
Michael Grunwald, Washington Post
September 8, 2005 CORPS0908 [/B]
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Before Hurricane Katrina breached a levee on the New Orleans Industrial Canal, the Army Corps of Engineers had launched a $748 million construction project at that very location. But the project had nothing to do with flood control. [B]The Corps was building a massive new lock for the canal, an effort to accommodate steadily increasing barge traffic.
Except barge traffic on the canal has been steadily decreasing.[/B]
[B]In Katrina's wake, Louisiana politicians and other critics have complained about paltry funding for the Army Corps in general and Louisiana projects in particular. But over the five years of President Bush's administration, Louisiana has received far more money for Corps civil works projects than any other state, about $1.9 billion; California was a distant second with less than $1.4 billion, even though its population is more than seven times larger.[/B]
Much of that Louisiana money was spent to try to keep low-lying New Orleans dry. But hundreds of millions of dollars have gone to unrelated water projects demanded by the state's congressional delegation and approved by the Corps, often after economic analyses that turned out to be inaccurate. Despite a series of independent investigations criticizing Army Corps construction projects as wasteful pork-barrel spending, Louisiana's representatives have kept bringing home the bacon.
For example, after a $194 million deepening project for the Port of Iberia flunked a Corps cost-benefit analysis, Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., tucked language into an emergency Iraq spending bill ordering the agency to redo its calculations. The Corps also spends tens of millions of dollars a year dredging little-used waterways like the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, the Atchafalaya River and the Red River -- now known as the J. Bennett Johnston Waterway, in honor of the project's congressional godfather -- for barge traffic that turns out to be less than forecast.
The Industrial Canal lock is one of the agency's most controversial projects, sued by residents of a New Orleans low-income black neighborhood and cited by an alliance of environmentalists and taxpayer advocates as the fifth-worst current Corps boondoggle. In 1998, the Corps justified its plan to build a new lock -- rather than fix the old lock for a tiny fraction of the cost -- by predicting huge increases in barge traffic.
In fact, barge traffic on the canal had been plummeting since 1994, but the Corps left that data out of its study. And barges have continued to avoid the canal since the study was finished, even though they are visiting the port in increased numbers.
Pam Dashiell, president of the Holy Cross Neighborhood Association, remembers holding a protest against the lock four years ago -- right where the levee broke last week. Now she's holed up with her family in a St. Louis hotel, and her neighborhood is underwater. "Our politicians never cared half as much about protecting us as they cared about pork," she said.
Wednesday, congressional defenders of the Corps said they hoped the fallout from Hurricane Katrina would pave the way for billions of dollars of additional spending on water projects. Steve Ellis, a Corps critic with Taxpayers for Common Sense, called their push "the legislative equivalent of looting."
Louisiana's politicians have requested much more money for New Orleans hurricane protection than the Bush administration has proposed or Congress has provided. In the last budget bill, Louisiana's delegation requested $27.1 million for shoring up levees around Lake Pontchartrain, the full amount the Corps had declared as its "project capability." Bush suggested $3.9 million, and Congress agreed to spend $5.7 million.
Administration officials also scaled back a long-term project to restore Louisiana's disappearing coastal marshes, which once provided a measure of natural hurricane protection for New Orleans. They ordered the Corps to stop work on a $14 billion plan and devise a $2 billion plan instead.
Levees only so strong
But overall, the Bush administration's funding requests for the key New Orleans flood-control projects for the past five years were slightly higher than the Clinton administration's for its past five years. Lt. Gen. Carl Strock, the chief of the Corps, has said that in any event, more money would not have prevented the drowning of the city, since its levees were only designed to protect against a Category 3 storm. Strock also has said the marsh restoration project would not have done much to diminish Katrina's storm surge, which passed east of the coastal wetlands.
"The project manager for the Great Pyramids probably put in a request for 100 million shekels and only got 50 million," said John Paul Woodley Jr., the Bush administration official overseeing the Corps. "Flood protection is always a work in progress; on any given day, if you ask whether any community has all the protection it needs, the answer is almost always: Maybe, but maybe not."
The Corps had been studying the possibility of upgrading the New Orleans levees for a higher level of protection before Katrina hit, but Woodley said that study would not have been finished for years. Still, liberal bloggers, Democratic politicians and some Republican defenders of the Corps have linked the catastrophe to the underfunding of the agency.
"We've been hollering about funding for years, but everyone would say: There goes Louisiana again, asking for more money," said former Democratic senator John Breaux. "We've had some powerful people in powerful places, but we never got what we needed."
i have heard of this - while it is technically accurate to say
But over the five years of President Bush's administration, Louisiana has received far more money for Corps civil works projects than any other state, about $1.9 billion; California was a distant second with less than $1.4 billion, even though its population is more than seven times larger.[/QUOTE]
the economic significance of this port is such that the protection of which was seriously underfunded.
to put it another way if 15 states move their crops up and down the mississippi river and the mouth of the river is the delta, should that delta become inpassible (as it has) the economic impact affects the entire country, not just the delta. Also the corp of engineers only works on high priority places - Cali has a huge economy as does the port of New Orleans. You won't find the army corp spending all sorts of resources working on a dam in Kentucky or Arkansas. These guys are focused on the important things, or at least they are supposed to be.
what I am trying to say is while it sounds like the port of Louisiana was getting enough attention from the money spent, that's not entirely the case. 2 billion sounds like alot of money but our government is spending 60 billion as a down payment to the relief and recovery. What they got was peanuts compared to what they needed.