Friday's Wall Street Journal follows up on the breaches in the New Orleans levee-and-floodwall system with a long piece that concentrates on the fractured responsibility of the levee boards, sewerage and water board, and Port, as well as the Army Corps, for inspection and maintenance of the system. It also points out, appropriately, the failure of the Louisiana Legislature to unify those responsibilities in the recent special session.
What the Journal misses, however, is what the local paper, The Times Picayune, uncovers in Friday's edition, unaccountably not available online (late Thanksgiving?). The highlights: scheduled inspections of the system, conducted by levee board members and officials from the Army Corps of Engineers, were "cursory affairs" that "skipped the floodwalls...exposed by Katrina as the system's Achilles' heel." Beyond these scheduled visits, the agencies relied on grasscutting crews who "know what a good levee looks like".
Says Jerry Colletti, the Army Corps' operations manager for completed works of the admittedly under-thorough inspections his agency helped conduct, "I think it's a good lesson learned." Maybe Mike Brown's new firm has its first hire. He adds, in a similarly blase tone, "We never had a problem prior to this. There are a lot of things we know now that we should have done differently." He adds, putting the knife in just a bit deeper, that inspections avoided the floodwalls "because (they) were believed to be in good shape and because it's hard for a large convoy of observers to ride to a spot where they could view them easily."
The TP sources its report in both documents and interviews. The WSJ quotes "engineers and others", mainly a National Science Foundation report on divided levee responsibility.
Unfortunately, a lot more people will see the Journal piece than will have access to the TP article.