Tuesday, March 07, 2006

NOLA levees being rebuilt with substandard materials

This is just getting ridiculous. Not too long ago, we heard from Chertoff that the Gulf Coast is not going to be ready to deal with the upcoming hurricane season. Then we see that yes, both Bush and Chertoff WERE warned about the potential for utter destruction from Katrina.

So why am I not surprised when I see this:

[f]indings from two teams of independent experts said the [Army] corps [of Engineers] is taking shortcuts and using substandard materials, leaving large sections of the system substantially weaker than before the hurricane.

Of course, everything is just A-OK in Bushland, if you ask him.

You know, more and more, this Administration seems to be running things according to one of my favorite Simpsons story lines, the "Max Power way" of doing things. For those who are unaware with the episode where Homer changes his name to Max Power (which he got off a hair dryer), there is this exchange between Homer and Bart:
Max Power: Kids, there's three ways to do things. The right way, the wrong way, and the Max Power way!
Bart: Isn't that the wrong way?
Max Power: Yes, but faster!

That about sums it up for this mis-administration. Doing things the wrong way, but faster. But don't worry, Bush was "assured" that the independent reports, issued by engineers on a National Science Foundation-funded panel and by a Louisiana team appointed to monitor the rebuilding were incorrect, despite this little bit of news by Lt. Gen. Carl Strock, head of the Army Corps:
Strock said the Corps had yet to see the findings or information on where the teams took their samples. He suggested the monitors may have been testing the wrong soil. He said the Corps is trucking in clay from Mississippi to rebuild the system because the local soil does not meet quality standards.

Strock acknowledged that the levees will not be able to protect low-lying areas in the event of another Katrina-like storm this year.

Pretty impressive to be so dismissive of the independent reports (and do I need to point out how often the independent reports have proven to be more on point than the reports by the administration itself?) yet never have read the reports. But I guess when all you promise is that the levees will be rebuilt to the same height as before Katrina, then it doesn't matter if you use concrete, bubble-wrap, duct tape or the actual materials that you would need to build them right.

The Army Corps of Engineers seems likely to fulfill a promise by President Bush to rebuild New Orleans's toppled flood walls to their original, pre-Katrina height by June 1, but two teams of independent experts monitoring the $1.6 billion reconstruction project say large sections of the rebuilt levee system will be substantially weaker than before the hurricane hit.

These experts say the Corps, racing to rebuild 169 miles of levees destroyed or damaged by Katrina, is taking shortcuts to compress what is usually a years-long construction process into a few weeks. They say that weak, substandard materials are being used in some levee walls, citing lab tests as evidence. And they say the Corps is deferring repairs to flood walls that survived Katrina but suffered structural damage that could cause them to topple in a future storm.

Do I hear more criminal negligence? Certainly we can expect the typical passing of the buck and lemme guess, we should also blame the people that live in the Gulf Coast for picking a place to live that is below sea level.
"The people of New Orleans need to get back to at least the level of hurricane protection we had before Katrina," Corps spokesman Jim Taylor said. "We were authorized to do that, and do it quickly. It's up to Congress to decide to take it to a higher level."

But Ivor van Heerden, a Louisiana State University engineering professor and leader of a state-appointed team of experts investigating the failure of the levee system during Katrina, charged that "the government is trying to reate a sense of security that doesn't exist."

"What we have today," he added, "is a compromised levee system that failed during a fast-moving Category 3 hurricane. Absolutely nowhere are the levees ready to stand up to the same kind of test."

But wait, it gets worse. The funding still has to be requested in order to do cruical tasks, and the most vulnerable spots and areas that should have been addressed still are being ignored by the Army Corps of Engineers:

The Corps said several steps that could help the levee system survive a major hurricane will have to wait until next year. For example, systematic testing for weak soils beneath the levees will not be completed until 2007. Two of the most devastating flood wall breaches during Katrina have been blamed in part on weak, peatlike soils beneath the walls' foundations.

In addition, a plan to line the bases of certain critical levees with a protective layer of rock or concrete -- a process known as "armoring" -- is not expected to begin until summer, and then only if Congress provides additional money. Levee armoring significantly lowers the risk that a levee will collapse when it is overtopped by floodwaters.

A recent report by a prestigious panel of the American Society of Civil Engineers described the lack of armoring in New Orleans's levees as a "fundamental flaw" that demands urgent attention. The same report also faulted the Corps for making predictions about the system's safety before the agency officially determined what caused the levees to fail in the first place.

Just another "what the fuck" moment in the continuing saga of the Max Power administration. Doing the wrong thing, but faster.


DHS said...

I am reading an amazing book right now, called "Rising Tide," by John M. Barry, that talks about the prestigious rise of the Army Corps of Engineers in the mid 19th century and their slow & steady downfall thereafter. If we leave this job to the Army Corps expressly, we can be all but certain that the catastrophe of New Orleans in 2005 is just the beginning. Hurricane season is just around the bend...keep your eye in this story. We need to hire private contractors (local ones!) quickly, people who have personal stake in making sure these levees hold.

Anonymous said...

In what century is the debt going to be paid down. I certainly think that N.O. needs the levees and 1.6 billion is a fair amount, but with the war and all the giveaways, the national debt has reached stratisforic proportions.

clammyc said...

at this rate, I think that we are looking at my grandkids still owing...

right now it is over $2,500 PER PERSON in the US.

Thx, Dick.