Money Flowed to Questionable Projects

As the rush by the usual suspects to blame Bush for the levee breaks and "slow federal response" marches on, this piece from the Washington Post provides yet another glimpse into the funding surrounding the levees that broke, causing the massive flooding in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina:

Money Flowed to Questionable Projects

State Leads in Army Corps Spending, but Millions Had Nothing to Do With Floods

Before Hurricane Katrina breached a levee on the New Orleans Industrial Canal, the Army Corps of Engineers had already launched a $748 million construction project at that very location. But the project had nothing to do with flood control. The Corps was building a huge new lock for the canal, an effort to accommodate steadily increasing barge traffic.

Except that barge traffic on the canal has been steadily decreasing.

In Katrina’s wake, Louisiana politicians and other critics have complained about paltry funding for the Army Corps in general and Louisiana projects in particular. But over the five years of President Bush’s administration, Louisiana has received far more money for Corps civil works projects than any other state, about $1.9 billion; California was a distant second with less than $1.4 billion, even though its population is more than seven times as large.

Much of that Louisiana money was spent to try to keep low-lying New Orleans dry. But hundreds of millions of dollars have gone to unrelated water projects demanded by the state’s congressional delegation and approved by the Corps, often after economic analyses that turned out to be inaccurate. Despite a series of independent investigations criticizing Army Corps construction projects as wasteful pork-barrel spending, Louisiana’s representatives have kept bringing home the bacon.

For example, after a $194 million deepening project for the Port of Iberia flunked a Corps cost-benefit analysis, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) tucked language into an emergency Iraq spending bill ordering the agency to redo its calculations. The Corps also spends tens of millions of dollars a year dredging little-used waterways such as the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, the Atchafalaya River and the Red River — now known as the J. Bennett Johnston Waterway, in honor of the project’s congressional godfather — for barge traffic that is less than forecast.

Interesting eh? Here’s where it gets even more interesting:

But overall, the Bush administration’s funding requests for the key New Orleans flood-control projects for the past five years were slightly higher than the Clinton administration’s for its past five years. Lt. Gen. Carl Strock, the chief of the Corps, has said that in any event, more money would not have prevented the drowning of the city, since its levees were designed to protect against a Category 3 storm, and the levees that failed were already completed projects. Strock has also said that the marsh-restoration project would not have done much to diminish Katrina’s storm surge, which passed east of the coastal wetlands.

My my my.  Looks like the full picture is starting to come out regarding levee funding projects and the media is furiously backtracking and attempting to get the story right.  If only they could have done so the first time around.

(Hat tip: Michael Turner’s post at BlogsFor Bush)

Related: Is there bad blood between NO Mayor Ray Nagin and La. Gov. Blanco? Greyhawk has some interesting links that may shed some light on that.   Here’s a photo that may haunt Nagin and Blanco for years to come (hat tip for photo: Jeff Goldstein, who has been a posting machine on this issue).

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