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14 May 2011


Russ Steele

George, here is part of your answer, pork, pork and more pork, but non-for flood contol.

Army's engineers spent millions on Louisiana projects labeled as pork

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. 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.

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.

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., [The Pork Princess ed] 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.

Michael Anderson

If you have spent any time in La. or Ms., or even east Texas, you will know that these states are largely swamp. The towns and cities there have benefited from gov't pork for at least a century and a half. As a result, they are a few feet higher than the surrounding swamp.

But unfortunately, the Atchafalaya Basin has always served as the overflow for a high Mississippi. The Morganza Spillway was a way to control the overflow. The last time was 1973. Now it is 2011, and the basin must be used to save Baton Rouge and New Orleans. The amount of water we are talking about--over a million cfs--cannot be controlled by levees downstream.

The flooding will be a blessing in disguise.

George Rebane

I do understand the role and results of pork spending. But I don't understand the logic of Michael's answer about >1M cfs being controlled upstream at Morganza where the flow is narrower and more concentrated, but not downstream closer to the broad delta where the water mass has a larger area over which to distribute itself.

Dave C

Had they just left out the up-river levee system built in the 1920’s and 30’s, the Atchafalaya swamp south of the Interstate 10 corridor would have continued to naturally flood most every year. This also would have resulted in Louisiana from losing their intercoastal water way to Gulf of Mexico coastal erosion.

Steven Frisch

This might help the discussion.


Michael Anderson

As Steve F. and Dave C. have pointed out, the river wants to naturally flood into swamp above Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Between those two cities, the river is narrow and the levees high. Once past New Orleans, the Mississippi flattens out again.

Dixon Cruickshank

I wonder why it wasn't open some weeks ago, a little - rather than releasing a torrent, seems like that would have solved the eventual issue without as much damage.

Michael Anderson

This is a great story on the Atchafalaya from 1987: http://www.newyorker.com/archive/1987/02/23/1987_02_23_039_TNY_CARDS_000347146?currentPage=all

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