03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Why Obama Needs to Weigh In With the Corps of Engineers

Of course, Republicans defended George W. Bush and blamed state and local officials when independent investigations (here and here) pointed to the US Army Corps of Engineers' culpability for the 2005 flooding of New Orleans.  Now Democrats are doing the same thing when critics, like myself, find the Corps making some of the same mistakes in the rebuilding and the president calls the flooding a "natural disaster."  One persistent commenter to my posts keeps deflecting responsibility to (minority) Republicans in Congress and to the now-Republican leadership of the state of Louisiana.  Today's news provides a cogent response. 

The Times-Picayune reports that the Chairman of Louisiana's Coastal Restoration and Protection Authority is seeking mediation between his agency and the Corps over--wait for it--where the Corps dumps its mud.  It's been known for years that, as the Corps keeps the Mississippi River channel clear for navigation, it dumps what it dredges in the Gulf of Mexico--at the same time that the state's coastal wetlands, deprived of sediment from the leveed-off river (and damaged by thousands of miles of pipelines and canals serving the oil industry), continue to disappear at an alarming rate.  The Corps refuses to use that dredged material to help replenish the wetlands.  The State has two options--prevent the dredging, which would cripple navigation on the Mighty Miss, or request the mediation.

Of course, the Corps' Commander in Chief, a gentleman by the name of Obama, could cut short this process, order the Corps to request the money from Congress (if, indeed, the Corps is correct that helping restore the wetlands would cost more than filling a hole at the bottom of the Gulf), and help preserve New Orleans' main buffer against more severe hurricanes (since hurricanes lose force over land).  The question is: will he?