Time to Sack the Corps of Engineers, FEMA Chiefs

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It is common to see more energetic routine highway construction projects moving huge amounts of soil with large numbers of trucks than seen in the "emergency" levee repairs in New Orleans. One would think that FEMA and the Corps of Engineers would have a line of dump trucks filled with soil a mile long, dumping soil 24 hours a day, being sent by barge, being sent by land, and filling those breeches in the levees. This is ESPECIALLY true once the water level between the Lake Pontchartrain and the City of New Orleans reached equilibrium and the rush of water into the city was over. With the waters at equilibrium, it should have been a matter how dumping soil as fast as possible in order to seal the breeches and get the pumps going to pump the city dry.

Instead, we hear a ludicrous suggestion by Corps of Engineers officials that they intend to open further breeches in the levee in order to let the city drain into the Lake. Was this official stoned on crack cocaine when he made that statement? Unless the Lake itself was drained significantly, there is no way in hell that a significant draining of the city could occur, because the lowest parts of the city are way below normal lake level. Any drainage by gravity would be totally superficial; whereas getting those levees sealed and beginning pumping operation as soon as possible, in emergency fashion, would lead to dewatering that city.

This is only common sense, which seems to be lacking in the officials in charge of this mess. The Corps of Engineers proved as inept at solving this emergency as the other agencies proved at evacuating the city effectively and efficiently. What was done when it was discovered that the levees were threatening to fail? Was there any effort to attempt to reinforce them in the hours after the hurricane, on an emergency basis?

Do any of these officials understand that emergencies require a different level of emphasis and activity than routine, daily operations? Was there some institutional desire to allow these catastrophes to take place?

All of this disaster reminds us of how vulnerable a future New Orleans will be to a deliberate terrorist attack to use explosives to breech a levee along the lake or the river in the future. If levees are nothing but dirt holding back huge volumes of water, a terrorist or a suicide terrorist with a truck or barge full of explosives might be able to flood the city with minimal effort. Imagine a deliberate explosion along the levees at the Mississippi River front near the French Quarter.

The day that New Orleans is drained by gravity into Lake Pontchartrain is the day the cow jumps over the moon. The heads of FEMA and the Corps of Engineers should be sacked for simply mentioning breaching the levees to drain the city. They need to get the levees repaired promptly (in emergency fashion) and get the dampened city pumped dry. If these morons cannot figure that out, why in the world doesn’t the President fire them and get someone in charge who can dewater this city and begin restoration operations.

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