New Orleans, by all reports, was filled to the brim over the July 4 weekend, as visitors to the annual Essence Festival packed the hotels and the Superdome. It's a three-day festival of R&B concerts and "empowerment seminars", and people come from all over the country, dressed up as for church.
Something less publicized, and less celebratory, happened at about the same time in the city: the Army Corps of Engineers local chief signed off on a plan to choose the plan for the three canals whose floodwalls catastrophically failed in 2005, a plan the Corps' own staff has critiqued as less effective at preventing flooding than an alternative plan.
The problem, according to the Corps: the so-called Plan B is too expensive.
The Corps' top leaders have said they don't have the estimated $3.4 billion or the congressional authorization needed to build the more expansive systems...
Three point four billion? Used to sound like a lot of money, until you total the cost of the devastation caused the last time the Corps shorted the design and construction of the floodwalls along those outfall canals. Used to sound like a lot of money, before three quarters of a trillion poured out of Washington in search of "shovel-ready" projects that could create jobs. Shovel ready? Job creation? Protect a major city from catastrophe? Check. So who didn't ask Congress to appropriate the $3.4 bil? Who still isn't? Hello, Moscow, get me the red phone.
The good news?
Leaders of the [Corps] have said they will engineer and build the new stations to easily accommodate the more complex system preferred by the local community if congressional approval and money become available in the future.
Of course they will. They already built one temporary system of pumps (about which, possibly, more this week, although one knowledgeable source described the temporary pumps as "pieces of shit"). The Corps likes building things, or, more accurately, letting and supervising the contracts for building things, on which they slap a percentage. They'll build the damn things as often as we let them, and maybe, one day, they'll build them right.
Maybe a certain President needs a personal empowerment seminar in New Orleans.