OT: New Orleans and the war in Iraq
- From: victor@xxxxxxxxxxxxx (Victor S. Miller)
- Date: Wed, 31 Aug 2005 03:08:14 -0400
I believe that this speaks for itself.
>From the Philadelphia Daily News:
It appears that the money has been moved in the president's budget to
handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that's the
price we pay. Nobody locally is happy that the levees can't be
finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that
this is a security issue for us.
-- Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish,
Louisiana; New Orleans Times-Picayune, June 8, 2004.
This picture is an aerial view of New Orleans today, more than 14
months later. Even though Hurricane Katrina has moved well north of
the city and the sun is out, the waters continue to rise in New
Orleans as we write this. That's because Lake Pontchartrain continues
to pour through a two-block-long break in the main levee, near the
city's 17th Street Canal. With much of the Crescent City some 10 feet
below sea level, the rising tide may not stop until until it's level
with the massive lake.
There have been numerous reports of bodies floating in the poorest
neighborhoods of this poverty-plagued city, but the truth is that the
death toll may not be known for days, because the conditions continue
to frustrate rescue efforts.
New Orleans had long known it was highly vulnerable to flooding and a
direct hit from a hurricane. In fact, the federal government has been
working with state and local officials in the region since the late
1960s on major hurricane and flood relief efforts. When flooding from
a massive rainstorm in May 1995 killed six people, Congress authorized
the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, or SELA.
Over the next 10 years, the Army Corps of Engineers, tasked with
carrying out SELA, spent $430 million on shoring up levees and
building pumping stations, with $50 million in local aid. But at least
$250 million in crucial projects remained, even as hurricane activity
in the Atlantic Basin increased dramatically and the levees
surrounding New Orleans continued to subside.
Yet after 2003, the flow of federal dollars toward SELA dropped to a
trickle. The Corps never tried to hide the fact that the spending
pressures of the war in Iraq, as well as homeland security -- coming
at the same time as federal tax cuts -- was the reason for the
strain. At least nine articles in the Times-Picayune from 2004 and
2005 specifically cite the cost of Iraq as a reason for the lack of
hurricane- and flood-control dollars. (Much of the research here is
from Nexis, which is why some articles aren't linked.)
In early 2004, as the cost of the conflict in Iraq soared, President
Bush proposed spending less than 20 percent of what the Corps said was
needed for Lake Pontchartrain, according to this Feb. 16, 2004,
article, in New Orleans CityBusiness:
The $750 million Lake Pontchartrain and Vicinity Hurricane Protection
project is another major Corps project, which remains about 20%
incomplete due to lack of funds, said Al Naomi, project manager. That
project consists of building up levees and protection for pumping
stations on the east bank of the Mississippi River in Orleans,
St. Bernard, St. Charles and Jefferson parishes.
The Lake Pontchartrain project is slated to receive $3.9 million in
the president's 2005 budget. Naomi said about $20 million is needed.
"The longer we wait without funding, the more we sink," he said. "I've
got at least six levee construction contracts that need to be done to
raise the levee protection back to where it should be (because of
settling). Right now I owe my contractors about $5 million. And we're
going to have to pay them interest."
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