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"Sacrificial Steel": Is the Corps Dooming Eastern New Orleans Again?

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For those folks -- including the people at the CBS Evening News who, on the Friday before the 5th anniversary of the 2005 flood, ran a glowing, two-and-a-half-minute-long video paean to the US Army Corps of Engineers' work on the "new, improved" hurricane protection system in New Orleans -- who believe the Corps' repeated reassurances that New Orleans "has never been safer," this report from the Times-Picayune should be required reading.

The story in a nutshell: Corps higher-ups have authorized the refusal to rust-coat the steel "sheet piling" being driven to anchor floodwalls in the eastern half of the city, choosing instead to use extra-wide steel, so-called "sacrificial steel" because the extra width is a gift to the Rust Gods. The New Orleans Levee Authority, reformed by the voters after the 2005 flood to include professional engineers, hydrologists, and other experts, now admits it's been emboiled in a months-long wrangle with the Corps over the decision. One commissioner calls the decision "a design flaw," a harrowing echo of the problems discovered by two independent forensic engineering investigations into the 2005 flood.

The Levee Authority wants the Corps to fast-track an independent review of the decision, while the Corps appears to be slow-walking that process until the driving of the uncoated sheet pilings is a fait accompli. This is where your $14 billion is going, America. Into "sacrificial steel".

UPDATE (9-21): For those of you still in doubt about the nature of the decision-making process at the Corps where human life is concerned, I commend to you these two paragraphs from a decision by the US 5th Circuit Court of Appeals against a contractor whose work failed at the Industrial Canal in the 2005 flood:

 The 5th Circuit said the Corps provided the company with "imprecise,
 and at times non-existent" specifications for what kind of backfill
 material to use.

 "Significantly, the evidence in the record shows that the sole
 consideration for the Corps in evaluating the backfill was the cost
 of the material," (Judge Jerry) Smith wrote.

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