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Saturday, September 10, 2005

KATRINA: LA Times Uncovers Enviro Suit That Prevented Levee Strengthening After 1965 Storm

Here is a major test of the MSM's credibility in reporting Hurricane Katrina and the assessment of the official response. The Los Angeles Times is reporting that an environmentalist outfit's lawsuit in 1977 stopped a project approved by Congress following Hurricane Betsy in 1965 to strengthen the New Orleans levees to withstand a category four or five storm like Hurricane Katrina.

"'If we had built the barriers, New Orleans would not be flooded,' said Joseph Towers, the retired chief counsel for the Army Corps of Engineers New Orleans district.Tower's view is endorsed by a former key senator, along with academic experts, who say a hurricane barrier is the only way to control the powerful storm surges that enter Lake Pontchartrain and threaten the city. Other experts are less sure, saying the barrier would have been no match for Katrina. "The project was stopped in its tracks when an environmental lawsuit won a federal injunction on the grounds that the Army's environmental impact statement was flawed. By the mid-1980s, the Corps of Engineers abandoned the project.
"The project faced formidable opposition not only from environmentalists but from regional government officials outside of New Orleans who argued that the barriers would choke commerce and harm marine life in ecologically sensitive Lake Pontchartrain."

J. Bennett Johnston, the retired Democrat who was in the Senate at the time, has no doubts the project would have prevented the flooding caused by Katrina and wants to revive it as part of the current reconstruction now. "It ought to be part of the deal. It would have prevented the huge storm tide that came into Lake Pontchartrain," Johnston told the Times.

The leading opposition group was Save Our Wetlands, which was joined by area fishermen and at least one of the New Orleans region local governments. The Times said SOW's suit contended the project would have a disastrous impact on numerous species:

"The crux of the suit was that the control structures would sharply reduce the natural flow of ocean water into the lake, damaging shellfish and other aquatic life. Opponents were convinced that the barriers would cause an environmental disaster. They said it would drain the wetlands, leaving it 'extremely susceptible to hurricane tidal surges.'"

The test for the MSM, of course, is whether other major media organizations like The New York Times, The Washington Post and the broadcast network news operations will follow the Times in developing the story.

HT: Prof. Bainbridge and Michelle Malkin