11/30/2005 07:58 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Costliest Engineering Mistake in American History

For those who still doubt the man-made nature of the Katrina disaster as it affected New Orleans, and who may have shed a tear watching NBC NIghtly News the last two nights as Brian Williams returned to the Dome and the Lower Ninth, the Times-Picayune once again has the goods, this time with a devastating report on the engineering of the floodwall at the 17th St. Canal. The money grafs:

The floodwall on the 17th Street Canal levee was destined to fail long before it reached its maximum design load of 14 feet of water because the Army Corps of Engineers underestimated the weak soil layers 10 to 25 feet below the levee, the state's forensic levee investigation team concluded in a report to be released this week.

That miscalculation was so obvious and fundamental, investigators said, they "could not fathom" how the design team of engineers from the corps, local firm Eustis Engineering and the national firm Modjeski and Masters could have missed what is being termed the costliest engineering mistake in American history.

For those readers who insist on seeing this catastrophe solely through a partisan prism, maybe a wake-up call: the T-P also reports that the first official to suggest a declaration of independence from the Corps as the city struggles to rebuild is a Republican, US Senator David Vitter (R-La):

Vitter said the nation must ditch its exclusive reliance on the Army Corps of Engineers for the construction and oversight of the levees and instead enlist outside experts to supervise the project on a regular basis.