Friday, September 02, 2005

The Bush administration wouldn't spend $250 million to help upgrade levees, so now they're spending $10 billion on flood and hurricane relief. Now Bush realizes the flooded and hurricane-damaged areas need $10 billion in help. But could more have been done before to prevent the flooding? As Salon reports, "For each of these years, Congress, with the support of the Louisiana delegation, appropriated more money, but funding still came in far below the requirements. Work was delayed. Contractors worked without pay. Whole projects were put off. Local project managers complained that New Orleans was competing with the war in Iraq for funding. "It appears that the money has been moved in the president's budget to handle Homeland Security and the war in Iraq," Walter Maestri, the emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, told the Times-Picayune in 2004. Of the $500 million requested for levees, pumping stations and new drainage canals between 2001 and 2005, only $249 million passed out of Congress. As recently as March, the Corps warned in a briefing memo that the funding shortfalls "will significantly increase the cost of the project, delay project completion and delay project benefits."

"If the Army Corps capabilities for the SELA program had been fully funded, there is no question that Jefferson Parish and New Orleans would be in a much better position to remove the water on the streets once the pumps start working," says Hunter Johnston, a lobbyist for Johnston and Associates who worked to secure the money.

It is too early to tell, however, whether the additional funding would have prevented the levee breaches and overruns that have flooded New Orleans. Scientists, journalists and public officials have been warning for decades that New Orleans could not withstand a Category 4 or 5 hurricane.
President Bush, meanwhile, told ABC's Diane Sawyer that no one could have anticipated the levees breaking.
Salon.com News Anatomy of an unnatural disaster

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