Friday, November 18, 2005

Problems with 17th Street Canal levee were reported a year ago

About a year ago, a woman who lives near the 17th Street Canal in New Orleans noticed there was water in her yard. Then more water. Soon, her neighbors noticed there was water in their yards, too. The woman called the New Orleans Sewerage & Water Board, who came out, tore up the sidewalks and driveways, and corrected the problem--somewhat. The yard continued to be wet, only not as wet as before. The woman assumed, as would anyone, that the Sewerage & Water Board had contacted the Army Corps of Engineers about the issue, after confirming that the water was coming from the canal.

The Corps, however, says it was never contacted. Considering the monumental inefficiency of the Sewerage & Water Board, this is very likely the truth. On the other hand, considering the monumental inefficiency of the Army Corps of Engineers, it is entirely possible its office was indeed told about the problem.

A man in the same neighborhood noticed his townhouse was shaking as a construction crew next door drove piles for a new project. The crew had demolished two houses and uprooted two giant oaks at the site, which--just weeks later, would prove to be the center of the levee breech.

We have already learned that the levee was poorly constructed and should never have been approved. And now we know that pre-Katrina warning signs were ignored. Because of inefficiency, unprofessionalism, bureaucracy, amorality, and probable corruption of those in charge--and the inefficiency and callousness of those charged with disaster management-- hundreds of people and animals are dead, and thousands are homeless and jobless.

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