That’s right, the Corps of Engineers is taking a “strategic pause” between essentially completing repair work to broken levees and “strengthening flood protection in New Orleans” according to the NYT
Contractors are waiting impatiently for the chance to bid on jobs. “By now, I would have expected there to be many more jobs bid and under way,” said Robert Boh, the head of Boh Brothers, a major local contractor. “We’re going to dance as soon as anyone asks us.”
Corps officials say the early work was done in the spirit of addressing a crisis, when they had broad latitude to get the job done. Officials on the ground, who call the current lull a “strategic pause,” say the new work has to be planned with great care. And they say it is a greater challenge to design and build new flood protection — the bulk of the second-phase work — than it is to patch breaches.
It is also becoming increasingly clear that the billions of dollars in appropriations will not cover the New Orleans area projects Congress has ordered the corps to take on. The situation, in the short run, could require the corps to go back to lawmakers for the authority to move some appropriated money around. Eventually, corps officials say, more money from Congress may be necessary.
To save money, the corps will skip interim steps on some projects and go straight for the higher, 100-year level of protection. But that will leave the city at risk until 2010 at least, say those who oppose the move. The corps has also scaled back plans to armor the levees against being scoured away when water flows over the top. An editorial in The New Orleans Times-Picayune described that cost-saving consideration as “a horrifying argument from an agency whose lack of foresight and competence caused a deadly and costly catastrophe.”
Whether the corps is working deliberately and responsibly or “dragging a leg” and falling into old bureaucratic ways is difficult to determine at this early stage, said G. Wayne Clough, president of the Georgia Institute of Technology and chairman of the National Research Council committee that reviewed the corps’ post-Katrina investigation. Still, Mr. Clough added, “If they don’t get started soon, they will lose momentum, and that’s a concern.”
What is essential, he said, is oversight from an outside, neutral group — the main recommendation of his committee.
This raises many questions and Oyster has these…
Between now and 2010, how many more insurers will decide that the Corps’ thrifty repair strategy (of skipping “interim steps”) is a risky bet? How many more will follow Travelers Ins. out of the area? What’s the point of slowly building higher levees if a lack of insurance kills the city before it can be adequately protected? Is floodwall armor for New Orleans the sort of thing we should “skimp” on?
Here is a Times Picayune photo from November 12 of one of the unarmored levees already rutted from erosion…
Congress will be pulled into addressing this eventually if more funding is needed so why wait?
Schedule the levees for the 101st Hour
UPDATE 12/5: New developments today on insurance and NOLA with national implications on “climate change”