Attorneys for the United States continue to spend taxpayer dollars in their efforts to defend the Army Corps of Engineers from liability for the failure of its levees and flood protection in the New Orleans region during Katrina.
The federal attorneys' most recent strategy apparently was an attempted character assassination of respected scientist and New Orleans' hero, Dr. Bob Bea.
Dr. Bea is one of a small minority of civil engineers who have stood up against the Corps and testified on behalf of southeast Louisiana residents who were harmed when federal levees failed during the 2005 storm.
In September, trial will begin on whether excavations by the Corps at the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal caused the Lower Ninth Ward breaches during Katrina. This trial is part of the MR-GO case of the Katrina Canal Breaches Consolidated Litigation. The lawsuit alleges that the Corps's negligent operation and maintenance of the now closed navigation channel caused property loss, property damage, and personal injury.
On behalf of the victims of the flooding, Dr. Bea offered his expert opinion to assist the court. On April 30, 2012, the United States filed a Motion to Exclude Testimony and Opinions of Dr. Bea (Doc 20823).
As a result of this legal motion, Dr. Bea had was forced to endure an apparent defamation campaign led by the Corps, a powerful interest with very deep pockets.
The Corps's 62-page document begins with this searing allegation against Dr. Bea:
"...his opinions rest on guesswork and on assumptions that lack evidentiary support. His opinions are couched in idiosyncratic phraseology unknown within the engineering community..."
One of the reasons the Corps is on the warpath may be because, earlier this year, an appeals court upheld a ruling which stated that the Corps is responsible for much of the flooding during Katrina, and should therefore compensate its victims. The appellate court even strengthened the case by including additional observations of its own in the 27-page opinion.
(We note with interest that two of the appellate judges in this landmark decision were appointed by George Bush and one by Ronald Reagan; and all three were from Texas, largely putting to rest any conjecture that the panel may have been left-leaning.)
Dr. Bea was the target of an aggressive campaign of distortion of the facts, just as Levees.org appeared to be when the Corps recently spent exorbitant taxpayer funds to delay the groups' application to list the two major levee breach sites on a national historic register. An army of lawyers can stonewall something for years.
Dr. Bea was a target, just as Dr. Ivor van Heerden was when the Corps allegedly threatened to cut off federal grants to LSU if the flagship university did not muzzle him.
On June 28, 2012, federal Judge Stanwood Duval Eastern District of Louisiana wrote of his intention to deny the motion. The only thing the Corps can celebrate, and it is not much, is that a 3D GIS graphic model was not yet complete and therefore, could be introduced as evidence.
"Filing a "place holder" in lieu of a properly completed report cannot be accepted," wrote Duval.
But Dr. Bea, the man and the legend, will testify on behalf of the plaintiffs and will be deposed on or before August 3, 2012.
Last month, when Levees.org appealed to the National Park Service to list two major levee breaches historic, much of the Corps' objection was centered on the application's reliance on Dr. Bea's expert opinion for a small portion of the 40-page report. Martin Cohen, Asst Chief Counsel for Litigation for the Corps wrote:
"...Nowhere, however is the possibility of bias and self-interest on the parts of these compensated plaintiff's witnesses acknowledged...."
The Corps paints Dr. Bea as mercenary when, in fact, just the opposite is true. Dr. Bea has made huge sacrifices on the part of southeast Louisiana residents. Dr. Bea is one of a very small group.
The Corps tried to dishonor Dr. Bea. And the Corps failed.
That is one more reason that the citizens of southeast Louisiana - and the fifty-five percent of the American population living in counties protected by levees - can feel reassured.
Lower Ninth Ward home a few blocks from the east breach sites of the Industrial Canal in New Orleans. Note tidy lots. This photo was taken in February of 2005 before Katrina. Photo/Courtesy of Levees.org
Lower Ninth Ward home a few blocks from the east breach sites of the Industrial Canal in New Orleans. This photo was taken about two months after the 2005 flood during Katrina. Photo/Courtesy of Levees.org
This photo highlights an often disregarded effect of the 2005 flood, the deforestation of mature trees which dramatically changed the texture of historic neighborhoods. Note mature pecan tree in background is missing in the after shot. Photo/Courtesy of Levees.org
Robert Bea, a professor at University of California-Berkeley and a member of a team of forensic engineers financed by the National Science Foundation, gives an imprumptu civil engineering lesson to reporters at The Times-Picayune. This photo was taken on January 8, 2006 by Mark Schleifstein who has given Levees.org express permission to use this photo.
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