Coverage of Rosa Parks' funeral, second-day reaction to the Alito nomination--what else will drown out the story of the Senate Homeland Security Committe hearing today? In case you missed it, and you probably did, the Committee heard the testimony of the experts whose preliminary studies of the floodwall breaches in New Orleans have been scattered across the print press for the last three weeks. As those preliminary reports indicated, the scientists' assessments suggest that the overwhelming majority of damage to New Orleans and St. Bernard Parish was not caused by a natural disaster, but by design and construction flaws of the levees and particularly the canal floodwalls. Absent an independent Katrina commission, today's hearing may be the closest this nation comes to learning that the Federal government, under both parties, bears significant responsibility for the destruction of much of the Crescent City and its neighboring parishes.
The money quotes from AP's story on the hearings:
"It became clear to us that they (the Army Corps of Engineers) were struggling to get the right kind of people put in charge of the projects to get the concerns addressed," (UC Berkeley engineering professor Raymond) Seed said.
The Senate hearing also examined the NSF's report showing that the levees may not have been designed to protect a major city. Moreover, engineers who designed the levees did not fully consider the porousness of the Louisiana soil or make other calculations that would have pointed to the need for stronger floodwalls, the study shows.
UC Berkeley's press release on the study has other interesting angles, including Seed's call for an indpendent federal review of the designs for the levee system rebuilding project. This may be the last time I'll ever link to a press release, but, given the odds that this story will be radically undercovered today, it's worth reading.