03/26/2011 05:29 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

New Details Emerge in Lawsuit Against Army Corps Over New Orleans Flooding

Coastal scientist Dr. Ivor van Heerden recently spoke before an international group of stakeholders and scholars at the Tulane School of Public Health's Disaster Management Workshop.

Dr. van Heerden's talk entitled The Use of Computer Models to Understand the Man Made Katrina Catastrophe was done in his usual style, jam packed with detail but very accessible. We were grateful for the informational "tune-ups."

For example, it's helpful to be reminded that the 17th Street Canal was "designed to fail" with a safety factor of approximately one (ERP, Jun 2006).

And that the London Avenue Canal had a safety factor of 0.5 because the New Orleans District Army Crops of Engineers ignored a layer of sand in the levee (Team Louisiana, Dec 2006).

2011-03-25-VanHeerdenSmallPic.jpgBut we also learned some interesting new information regarding the status of the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO) Lawsuit during the Q&A portion of the talk. We had not heard anything really since November of 2009 when the U.S. District Court found the Army Corps of Engineers guilty and liable for negligent maintenance of the MRGO, a little used shipping channel which caused the destruction of natural coastal barriers to storm surge that would have helped greatly reduce the tidal surge and destruction to the New Orleans metropolitan area.

Dr. van Heerden revealed in his talk that the federal government must come up with billions to compensate the people of the region for the disaster it created. We asked Dr. van Heerden -- a consultant in the case -- about the status of the lawsuit to which he replied that the Army Corps had appealed the decision in February of 2010.

"The lawsuit awarded plaintiffs in the Lower Ninth Ward and St. Bernard Parish, but the MRGO affected all the people in Orleans Parish," said van Heerden. "Why should they not be compensated? There is no question about the science. The Army Corps has been found guilty in federal court and right now they are wrangling over legal details. I believe the U.S. District Court's decision will hold."

More than 100 American cities are protected by levees designed and built by the Army Corps of Engineers. For this reason, we draw attention to the Re-Release of Harry Shearer's documentary called The Big Uneasy. Check out the website for theater dates and times near you.