Thursday, September 01, 2005

Money Diverted From Disaster Preparations

In 2001, FEMA warned about the reality of weakness in preparation for hurricane damage, especially in New Orleans, ranking it among the three most likely, most catastrophic disasters facing the United States.

Consecutive years of record cuts to programs promoted by the Bush administration which meant full funding of efforts geared for improving levees, and the operations of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would not occur. The Louisiana probelms were reported.

Yet after 2003, the flow of federal dollars toward SELA (Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project) 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."

Additional cuts threaten Tennessee's Nickajack aging dam and lock systems for managing river traffic in the state, which leads to tens of thousands of new 18-wheeler transports annually.

UPDATE: More and more news sites are reprinting and reminding Americans about the steady dismantling of FEMA by the Bush administration. Not to say Bush's policies led to a Hurricane, but programs meant to handle disaster-response and informed development plans in the Gulf coast were abandoned. Now that this lack of planning is helping create gas shortages, I wonder (paranoid me) if this was incompetence or part of a larger effort to destabilize a secure oil industry.


  1. Anonymous10:21 AM

    Thank heavens someone picked up on this.

  2. Today's NY Times had an editorial that briefly noted some of these issues. At Facing South (in the Links section here) SK Bubba quotes the 2001 press reports about the obvious problems in the Gulf coast.

  3. Anonymous6:04 PM

    Shhh... lets not look at the money that was diverted from the project by the locals into building a casino or any of the other pocket-lining in this very corrupt city and state. Nope. Much easier to blame it all on the President.

    Never mind that the main break was in an area that was recently refurbished. Never mind that since the 70's the C.O.E. has been sounding the alarm and TPTB in LA have been siphoning off and diverting funds. Never mind that this was a catagory 4 hurricane - weakened only hours before from a cat 5 - when it struck the coast and the levees were never built to withstand beyond a cat 3. Nope. Much easier to blame it all on the president.

  4. Didn't you see the President's comment in the media? - ""To the extent that the federal government didn't fully do its job right, I take responsibility."

    I never blamed the President in this post. Why do you ignore the facts that the President pushed for policies and agendas that were far short of the many needs expressed by key agencies with oversight regarding levee improvements?
    Read the information in the articles cited in this post. Time and again it was noted the levees were sinking and major improvement requests were never fully funded.
    Congress voted unanimously to place Brown as the head of FEMA despite no experience in handling disasters.
    They certainly added to a bad situation, as did the confusion of who was in charge of what.
    Again, some quotes from one of the articles cited in this post:
    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."
    That June, with the 2004 hurricane seasion starting, the Corps' Naomi went before a local agency, the East Jefferson Levee Authority, and essentially begged for $2 million for urgent work that Washington was now unable to pay for. From the June 18, 2004 Times-Picayune:
    "The system is in great shape, but the levees are sinking. Everything is sinking, and if we don’t get the money fast enough to raise them, then we can’t stay ahead of the settlement," he said. "The problem that we have isn’t that the levee is low, but that the federal funds have dried up so that we can’t raise them."

    As the days since the hurricane have passed, failure to properly prepare and then to actually handle the problems show many leaders failed.
    I give points to Pres. Bush for ultimately taking responsibility for the many federal failures.
    If you want to reduce all the info in these press reports to 'Bush-bashing', then go ahead.
    That's an easy way to avoid the real issues and ignore the facts.