Court: Corps of Engineers Responsible for Flood Damage in New Orleans

A federal judge in New Orleans has found “monumental negligence” by the U.S. Army’s Corps of Engineers in the operation and maintenance of a shipping channel called the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet. The finding allows residents to collect damages against the U.S. government after their homes were swamped by Hurricane Katrina’s floodwaters in 2005.

U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval rejected the government’s argument that the Corps was immune from liability and had properly maintained the navigation channel. The court specifically cited the Corps’ decision to widen the channel and allow the loss of protective wetlands as contributors to the disaster.

Duval awarded damages of about $720,000 to four people and a business in the case.

The immunity issue is likely to be appealed. Usually the government has immunity in areas where it exercises discretionary judgment or authority. A government official is allowed to be wrong and even moronic. The burning of the compound in Waco Texas is an example of such broad discretion. Few experts agreed with Janet Reno’s decision to send in a tank to charge a building filled with children and religious fanatics, but the courts still recognized immunity for officials.

For the full story, click here and here.

21 thoughts on “Court: Corps of Engineers Responsible for Flood Damage in New Orleans”

  1. John

    You crack me up. LOL. Comparing Holland to New Orleans is analogous to comparing an apple to an orange.


    I read an interview with an executive of a corporation (based in the Netherlands) that builds and maintains sea walls in the Netherlands a couple of years after the NOLA flood. He said his company had written and tried to call FEMA and other US govt agencies for months but no one got back to them. He claimed that his company could build a sea wall, locks etc. for NOLA that would withstand the same stress his sea walls did in the Netherlands (big North Sea storm waves/surges, 10,000 flood criterion) for what the Corp was paying to STUDY how to rebuild the levies. He was perplexed by the lack of response and hoping that making a public statement might get the (US) governments attention. It didn’t.

    Last article I bothered to read about NOLA levee reconstruction dealt with how cracks in one of the NEWLY rebuilt levee walls was being chinked with newspaper.

    I agree, the comparison is a hoot.

  2. The Court’s findings confirm the reputation that the Corps of Engineers has had for many years. I have a client who worked on the reconstruction of the levees following Katrina, and his opinion (although he is not an engineer) is that the repair work is also shoddy. In any event, I expect that sometime within the next few days, Pat Robertson will proclaim that God anointed the Corps of Engineers to smite New Orleans residents for their decadent lifestyle.

  3. Dredd:

    You crack me up. LOL. Comparing Holland to New Orleans is analogous to comparing an apple to an orange.

  4. Hans,

    Your name indicates you should probably know more about flood zones than you do.

    For over a thousand years many “Hans” and many “Gretls” have lived in flood zones in Holland.

    Some 36 million live below sea level now but they do not have the problems New Orleans has had for one simple reason.

    Their government has not yet been infiltrated by neoCons who could care less whether they live or die.

  5. “I was offering that as typical conservative knee jerk reaction.”

    As much as I hate emoticons could you please put a “smiley face” when you make ironic comments. Your sense of humor is too dry at times to be readily discernible.

  6. Mike,

    You guys really need to have a tiny bit more faith in Byron.

    As a helpful guideline: if he’s going to say something most of us would consider crazy, he generally does it in a long comment that expounds on his theory. He’s pretty consistent about that, we may disagree, but his beliefs are generally well thought out (if not thoroughly researched). The short crazy ones are almost always jokes, and then usually pretty self deprecating.

  7. Mike Spindell,

    “Good link” …



    Read the link Mike said is a “good link” and you will see that politics and class bias can thwart the Corps too sometimes, even when they want to do what is the proper thing to do.

  8. Byron,
    Stop assuming things based on your political preconceptions and start reading their history, it’s more informative. It’s what allows an Old Lefty like me to understand the failings on my side of the aisle. The Corps very checkered history has been so because of the interference of private enterprise throughout its existence.

  9. Mike S:

    I just thought it was because they were part of the federal government and it would only be natural for them to screw something up.

  10. “For years the Corps of Engineers has made mischief on navigable water ways. Give the Corps a river to maintain and they will inevitably make if FUBAR.”

    Couldn’t agree with you more. The Corps has a long history of FUBAR, which comes mainly from its being in bed with corporate and developmental interests, rather than providing safety for the public.

    Good link.

  11. I do not think North Dakota residents would like that, Hans. For one, the state crime rate would likely triple in the first quarter!

  12. Hans:

    it is not quite that easy. the levees were built by the corps and maintained by the city. I think a reasonable person has an expectation that if something is built correctly and maintained correctly it should work as intended.

    the fact that the levees were not designed for the appropriate high water mark or that they were not maintained properly is not the fault of the residents.

    The issue of putting your trust in government to protect you is another matter altogether.

  13. So first we get to pay to protect idiots who want to live in a flood zone, and now we get to pay again to reimburse the same idiots? Why don’t we just leave NO to nature and relocate everyone to North Dakota? They could use the population.

  14. For years the Corps of Engineers has made mischief on navigable water ways. Give the Corps a river to maintain and they will inevitably make if FUBAR.

    For those of you who may not know this engineering term it means . . . F’d up beyond all repair.

  15. I read an article on Yahoo which stated that this had been opened as a channel for shipping (which contributed to the deterioration of the dirt holding the structure together) and since the massive flood the Corp had put rocks in place to prevent shipping in this lane.

    There is an appeal expected bu the chief trial attorney is hoping for congress to settle.

    The question I have is if the Insurance Company has to pay and the Federal Government is so deeply invested in them, which pocket of government do you take the money out of to pay damages.

  16. “”Furthermore, the Corps not only knew, but admitted by 1988, that the MRGO threatened human life … and yet it did not act in time to prevent the catastrophic disaster that ensued with the onslaught of Hurricane Katrina.”

    There is a substantial difference in the discretion required to serve a warrant on a mad man, versus maintaining a big ditch.

  17. Hey! Score one for karma.

    Now, about the way you boys in the Corps are rebuilding . . .

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