06/09/2010 12:56 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Trusting the Army Corps of Engineers?

This week, the Weather Channel featured Harry Shearer and me in a Special Edition piece to kick off Hurricane Season in the Gulf.

The video highlighted our collective ire toward the agency primarily responsible for the catastrophic flooding in metro New Orleans during Katrina, the federal Army Corps of Engineers.

Both Harry and I bristle when the flooding in the Big Easy is called a 'natural disaster' because that protects the human beings responsible for the levee ruptures and floodwall failures.  With 55% of the American people living in counties protected by levees, that's dangerous. 

Harry points out in the video,

"The Corps itself said that the plan they have chosen is not the technically superior solution. That's not reassuring to people in New Orleans. It shouldn't be reassuring to people in the United States who are paying for it. "

After our commentary, Paul Goodloe of the Weather Channel stated,

"The Army Corps says it is trying to work with the people of south Louisiana."

That is a 'story' the Corps likes to tell partly because it often protects the agency in the media when things go awry.

After the 2005 flooding, using a technique described by Huff Post blogger Georgianne Nieneber, spokespersons for the Corps told eager news sources that the federal agency initially had proposed grand plans for barriers and gates, but that the locals wouldn't let them. None of those claims by the Corps proved true in court nor in post-disaster analyses.

Further, the Corps answers to Congress legally and is protected by sovereign immunity should its flood protection projects fail.  Due to the Flood Control Act of 1928, there is no incentive for the Corps to build water projects properly and conversely, no financial or professional consequences should they fail.

The Corps' behavior demonstrates that it does whatever it wants and recently provoked bipartisan anger from Louisiana's U.S. senators. 

Last month, an outraged Senator David Vitter R-LA, said he will secure new Corps Reforms because of the Corps unreasonable delays and decisions in south Louisiana for the past 18 years. Senator Vitter said on his website.

"I'm going to keep fighting for the people of south Louisiana as we continue to rebuild despite -- not because of -- the Corps."

Senior senator, Mary Landrieu D-LA issued a statement last fall referencing a heated battle over the best solution to protect citizens in the main basin of New Orleans.

"The Corps' arrogance has led them to ignore the unanimous voice of local leaders and residents, ignore public hearings and ignore a vigorous floor debate on this issue. The Corps stubbornness ultimately subverted the House-Senate negotiations and today the bureaucracy won the battle. But this fight is not over."

If the frustration of both of Louisiana's U.S. senators does not say enough, you might take the word of Barbara Danielle, a New Orleans resident who recently attended one the Corps' public meetings.
 Her observations are printed here with her permission.

"I went to a meeting about the plans for the structure at the Orleans Canal. It looks like the Corps plans to build what they want no matter what anyone says. Councilwoman Guidry said that Mary Landrieu wants her to travel to the Netherlands to look at levee protection. If the Corps is not taking any advice from outside sources, I don't see why they are traveling to the Netherlands.  Keep up your crusade. We need someone to continue the fight."

Barbara needn't worry.  We're buckled up for the long road ahead.

Orleans Avenue Canal
A family walks along the Orleans Avenue Canal in the Lakeshore
neighborhood of New Orleans. Photo property of