11 Mar 2008 A Second Look at Levee Rehabilitation
Peyton Knight penned this letter to the New York Times in response to a February 27 op-ed by Alex Prud’homme, “There Will Be Floods.” The Times did not print it, so I’ll give it some exposure here:
Alex Prud’homme paints a scary picture of America’s antiquated system of levees and fingers two culprits: a backlogged Army Corps of Engineers and lax wetlands protection due to a recent Supreme Court ruling on the Clean Water Act. There are two contradictions here.He invokes the Hurricane Katrina catastrophe, yet fails to mention that it was a wetlands protection lawsuit, filed by an environmental group, which prevented a massive hurricane barrier from being built 30 years ago. As Joseph Towers, former Army Corps chief counsel in the New Orleans district, lamented, “If we had built the barriers, New Orleans would not be flooded.”
In addition, the Supreme Court ruling Prud’homme bemoans (Rapanos v. U.S.) should enhance the Corps’ ability to focus on backlogged projects. Now the agency can spend less time regulating every isolated wet area in the country and focus on more pressing projects like levee rehabilitation.