September 16, 2005

Who caused the flooding in New Orleans?

The US Justice Department thinks they know:

Federal officials appear to be seeking proof to blame the flood of New Orleans on environmental groups, documents show.

The Clarion-Ledger has obtained a copy of an internal e-mail the U.S. Department of Justice sent out this week to various U.S. attorneys' offices: "Has your district defended any cases on behalf of the (U.S.) Army Corps of Engineers against claims brought by environmental groups seeking to block or otherwise impede the Corps work on the levees protecting New Orleans? If so, please describe the case and the outcome of the litigation."

The DoJ memo echoes charges that started coming from the US right wing as soon as Dubya's administration began getting hit with the political fallout from its failure to respond to the Katrina disaster. The charges are summed up well in this National Review article by John Berlau that appeared on September 8. In the article, Berlau blamed the poor state of the Mississippi River levees on a 1996 lawsuit against the Corps by the Sierra Club and other environmental groups rather than on budget cuts by Dubya's administration. Because of that lawsuit, the Corps was forced to back off from its plan to use fill scraped from sensitive wetlands for use in repairing and improving more than 300 miles of Mississippi River levees. [Of course, the fact that the levees holding back Lake Ponchartrain were the ones that broke, not the levees along the Mississippi, seems to have been irrelevant to the political point the magazine was trying to score.]

Do you think there's any link between a National Review article blaming environmentalists for the flooding of New Orleans and the DoJ memo looking for info about lawsuits filed against the Corps of Engineers? Does such a connection remind you of the handiwork of anyone in Dubya's administration? Does the name Karl Rove ring a bell?

Via Jackson (Mississippi) Clarion-Ledger.

Posted by Magpie at September 16, 2005 03:51 PM | US News | TrackBack(1) | Technorati links |

American Rivers condemns post-Katrina smear campaign

WASHINGTON, Sept. 16 /U.S. Newswire/ -- American Rivers President Rebecca R. Wodder released the following statement today in response to a story in the Clarion Ledger reporting on apparent efforts to shift blame for poor preparation for Hurricane Katrina onto the environmental community:

"I am dismayed at efforts by the government and special interests to blame the environmental community for the Hurricane Katrina tragedy. The case that the Competitive Enterprise Institute has made against American Rivers is a maliciously distorted interpretation of our efforts to preserve a healthy balance between man and nature along the Mississippi River. The American people owe it to themselves to get the facts and see this effort for the smear campaign that it is."

"American Rivers has never pursued any action that would put New Orleans at heightened risk of floods. In fact, our efforts to reconnect wetlands and forests to the Mississippi River lead towards a healthy river that floods less frequently and savagely than it has in recent decades.

"The importance of wetlands for flood damage reduction is well demonstrated. A single wetland acre, saturated to a depth of one foot, retains 330,000 gallons of water -- enough to flood thirteen average-sized homes thigh deep. Wetlands that are drained, filled, or isolated behind levees provide little or no flood protection for the surrounding community. Abundant and healthy wetlands should be the first line of defense against storms and floods.

"It is also well documented that some levees are counterproductive for purposes of protecting population centers from floods. The overengineering of the lower Mississippi River has contributed to the disintegration of the coastal Louisiana wetlands that once provided a robust buffer against hurricanes. If Mississippi River delta had been intact, New Orleans' levees might have held. If we restore this natural habitat, the levees around the city are more likely to hold during the next hurricane.

"We, and most Americans, believe that our nation's common wealth and public resources should be used for the common good which means protecting and restoring healthy rivers so they flood less frequently and harmfully than degraded, abused rivers like the Mississippi.

"American Rivers will continue to challenge misguided river management policies that channel high water away from forests and wetlands towards towns and cities. We will continue to advocate for the protection and restoration of wetland habitats that help soften the blow of floods while providing valuable wildlife habitat."

Clarion Ledger: E-mail suggests government seeking to blame groups

Spin and Facts on levees and flooding

Posted by: Eric Eckl at September 16, 2005 07:51 PM