Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Get Ready

The most salient fact about the Katrina destruction in New Orleans is that it was not a natural disaster. The storm was, but the flooding was due to the failure of the levees built by the Army Corps of Engineers. Their design was inadequate to the need, and their construction was inadequate to the design.

What too many people forget is how much of the country is just as dependent as New Orleans was on levees designed and built by the Corps. So it's not good to hear that the Corps has identified 142 specific levees around the country that are in serious danger of failure in a major flood. 42 of them are in California, which suggests the Sacramento river area, a large agricultural area between Sacramento and the Bay Area, flatland heavily dependent on levees to control flooding.

Now, I have a lot of family living in that area, so I'd really like to know just what levees are at risk, and just what areas are in danger. But there's a problem. The Corps won't tell us. They will not identify the specific levees.

What does this mean? Times-Picayune columnist Jarvis DeBerry knows from first hand experience what it's like to lose a home due to the incompetence of the Corps. In his excellent column in today's paper he offers a little perspective:

This, America, is the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in action. This is the agency that told New Orleans we had a level of flood protection we did not have. This is the agency culpable in the drowning deaths of more than 1,000 New Orleanians. This is the agency that knows of more than 12 dozen suspect levees nationwide and feels justified in keeping their locations secret. This is the agency that's supposed to be protecting you.

Feeling safe?