Debate Begins over the Bush Administration’s Responsibility for Levee Disaster

The Bush Administration is attempting to rewrite published reports over the past two years about its reallocation of funding from levee maintenance and repair in New Orleans to tax cuts and the war in Iraq:

And of course the Republicans play their broken record: “It was Bill Clinton’s fault (and, what the heck – Carter’s too!)”

“These (projects) were not funded at the full ability of the Corps of Engineers to execute the project,” said Lt. Gen. Carl Strock, commander of the Army Corps of Engineers. “But the important question is, ‘Would that have made a difference?’ And my assessment is, no, it would not.”

But Strock did acknowledge that more funding for the Southeast Louisiana Flood Control Project would allow the Corps to more quickly pump out the floodwaters inundating New Orleans.

“Had we had the SELA project finished … we could more efficiently move the water out of the system because it’s a big drainage project,” Strock said.

But a former head of the Army Corps of Engineers – along with documentary evidence – indicate that the projects might have prevented the chaos we are seeing today:

Bush administration funding cuts forced federal engineers to delay improvements on the levees, floodgates and pumping stations that failed to protect New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina’s floodwaters, agency documents showed on Thursday.

The former head of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the agency that handles the infrastructure of the nation’s waterways, said the damage in New Orleans probably would have been much less extensive had flood-control efforts been fully funded over the years.

“Levees would have been higher, levees would have been bigger, there would have been other pumps put in,” said Mike Parker, a former Mississippi congressman who headed the engineering agency from 2001 to 2002.

“I’m not saying it would have been totally alleviated but it would have been less than the damage that we have got now.”

And of course the Republicans play their broken record: “It was Bill Clinton’s fault (and, what the heck – Carter’s too!):”

“I fought every … administration when they tried to use the Corps of Engineers as a piggy bank to pay for other projects,” said former House Appropriations Committee Chairman Bob Livingston, a Louisiana Republican who represented the New Orleans suburbs for more than 20 years. “I had major battles with the Clinton administration. Going back to Carter. They’ve all sought to draw down the Corps of Engineers and put it elsewhere,” he said.

Naturally, he skipped laying the blame on the Reagan and Bush I administrations.


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